Sedentary work and unhealthy lifestyle habits

Associations between domain-specific sitting time and other lifestyle health behaviours

Sitting for long periods of time at work and whilst watching TV are associated with higher odds of partaking in multiple other unhealthy lifestyle behaviours.

We gathered data from 7,170 Northern Irish Civil Servants who completed an online survey reporting how much time they spend sitting on a workday and non-workday in five domains: travel, work, TV viewing, computer-use and leisure-time. Physical activity level, fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking were also reported. We added the number of these health behaviours which did not meet current health guidelines and analysed whether this score was associated with sitting time.

We found that office workers who reported sitting for seven hours or more at work and those who spent two or more hours sitting whilst watching TV on a workday had double the odds of partaking in three or more unhealthy behaviours. On a non-workday, three or more hours of sitting whilst TV viewing nearly tripled the odds. Public health policy should consider sitting time as an important health behaviour.

What next?

Future research is needed to establish the direction of causation in the associations between domain-specific sitting time and other health behaviours. Interventions focusing on reducing sedentary behaviours both at work and whilst watching TV need to be designed and implemented to measure the impact on health and other health behaviours.

Citation details

Kettle VE, Hamer M, Munir F, Houdmont J, Wilson K, Kerr R, Addley K, Sherar LB, Clemes SA. Cross-sectional associations between domain-specific sitting time and other lifestyle health behaviours: the Stormont study. J Public Health (Oxf). 2021 Aug;3:fdab298. DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdab298. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34343313.


The work in this paper is part of the research portfolio supported by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (East Midlands). This work was supported by a grant from the Doughty Fund of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and also by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.

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Tory Kettle

Dr Tory Kettle

Research Associate, PACE food labelling research

Lauren Sherar

Professor Lauren Sherar

Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health