Spending time in front of a screen may increase adolescents’ risks of suffering from depression and anxiety, according to a study of 2,482 Canadian middle and high schoolers.

To assess the mental status of the participants, the researchers used self-report questionnaires, the Children’s Depression Inventory, and the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children-10. The more time a student spent viewing a screen was significantly associated with depressive symptoms and the severity of anxiety symptoms, after controlling for the covariates of age, sex, ethnicity, parental education, body mass index, and physical activity. More severe depressive symptoms were significantly associated with the increased amounts of time a student played video games and used a computer, but not with the hours spent watching television. The duration of video game playing also was significantly associated with more severe symptoms of anxiety.

The study’s findings suggest that “screen time may represent a risk factor for, or a marker” of depression and anxiety disorders in adolescents, according to Danijela Maras of Carleton University, Ottawa, and her colleagues. The researchers recommended that future studies determine if “reducing screen time can have a significant impact on the prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression in adolescents.”

Read the full study in Preventive Medicine ( doi:10.1016/j.ypmed2015.01.029 ).