MONTREAL -- A study by Montreal's regional health department is sounding the alarm on the amount of recreational time Montrealers are spending in front of their screens.

More than one in five sixth-grade students - 21 per cent - and 16 per cent of adults in the Montreal area spend more than four hours a day on recreational screen time (separate from the time they use screens for school or work purposes), the Direction régionale de Santé Publique de Montréal (DRSP) study found.

That four-hour-a-day mark is what the DRSP considers to be 'intense' screen time, which it says is associated, in students, with an increased risk of dropping out of school, poorer mental and physical health and a lack of sleep, among other risks.

In adults, intense screen time is also linked to poorer mental and physical health, difficulty sleeping, increased psychological distress and dissatisfaction with other aspects of life (including relationships and finance).

The study found that 19 per cent of sixth graders and 39 per cent of adults spend two to four hours a day in front of their screens, which the department considers elevated, and 60 per cent of sixth graders/45 per cent of adults spend the recommended two hours a day or less on recreational screen time.

The DRSP is recommending that health authorities further promote the benefits of more balanced screen time and undertake more studies on the impact that screen time can have one people's physical and mental well-being.