Depression in teenagers linked with early school start times

Health & Fitness

If your teenage kid is facing a bout of anxiety or depression, don’t blame it alone on peer pressure or increased levels in education. Blame it on his early school timings, instead.

Yes. This might come as a surprise to many but a recent study has found that teenagers who start school before 8.30 in the morning are more likely to face bouts of anxiety and depression. This condition can happen despite their doing everything right to get a good night’s sleep.

A new study, perhaps the first one to reveal that the starting time of a school has a critical impact on adolescent sleep and daily functioning, reinforces the theorised link between adolescent mental health and sleep. The study, published in the journal Sleep Health, provide additional evidence on how school start times impact adolescent health.

During the study, the researchers at the University of Rochester (United States) did a baseline survey. Researchers used an online tool to collect data from 197 students between the ages of 14 and 17 years.

The children were separated into two groups: one group had students who started school before 8:30 am and the other who started after 8:30 am. Over seven days, the students had to keep a sleep diary in which they reported their daily sleep hygiene, levels of sleep quality and duration, and their depressive or anxiety symptoms.

All kids and parents also had to complete a baseline survey, including questions about the child’s level of sleep hygiene, family’s socio-economic status, circadian chronotype (whether you are a “morning” or “night” person) and their school-start times.

The results of the study showed that good baseline sleep hygiene was directly associated with lower average daily depressive or anxiety symptoms across all children and the levels were even lower in the ones with school start times after 8:30. However, students with good baseline sleep hygiene and earlier school start times had higher average daily depressive or anxiety symptoms.

The results of the study are quite alarming. And once again point to the often repeated demands of parents to school authorities to start the school late.

Why should schools start late in the morning:

Most schools start sometime around 7.30 while play schools start not before 9.15-9.30am. In families where both the parents are working, this means additional cost on the parents as the younger siblings who go to play school have to be kept at some crèche or day care centre. As against this, if school timings are same for all the kids the elder ones can take care of the siblings.

Early school hours have an adverse effect on the health of kids. For, good health, both the numbers of hours of sleep and the timing of sleep matters. Early school hours mean a child has to leave home sometime around 6.30, which means he/she has to get up by 5.30 am, and that is quite a problem, particularly, in winters when it is still dark at this time. And most kids are seen walking to the bus stop half-asleep. Tired, sleep-deprived children cannot do much learning in their school hours.


Also Read: Lack of sleep causes depression

Lastly, early school means kids are back home by 3 pm, while working parents are back only by 7, later in case their work place is far off from their homes. This means children have many hours of unsupervised time. This may lead to children falling in bad company or bad habits.

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