Physical Activity May Not Protect Teens from Depression

Although evidence suggests physical activity can help adults relieve depression and suppress depression relapse, a new study finds that physical activity is not associated with a reduction in adolescent depression.

Prior studies have shown that major depressive disorder is the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease. In many cases the onset of depression is thought to happen in adolescence or earlier, so preventive measures during this period of life could be beneficial.

In studies on adults, physical activity (PA) has been found to reduce the effects of depression, although evidence on the benefits of PA to actually prevent depression is not clear.

In the current study, UK researchers reviewed data from a longitudinal study of 736 participants (average age 14.5 years) from November 2005 through January 2010.

Participants were followed up about three years after baseline. The authors assessed physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) and moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) for both weekdays and weekend activities.

Additionally, a self-reported questionnaire measured mood symptoms and an interview was conducted at baseline and three years later.

A link between the levels of PA at 14 years of age and depressive outcomes at 17 years of age was not discovered.

“Our findings do not eliminate the possibility that PA positively affects depressed mood in the general population; rather, we suggest that this effect may be small or nonexistent during the period of adolescence,” the authors said.

“Our findings carry important public policy implications because they help to clarify the effect of PA on depressive symptoms in the general population. Although PA has numerous benefits to physical health in later life, such positive effects may not be expected on depressive outcomes during adolescence.”

The study has been published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: The JAMA Network Journals

Depressed basketball player photo by shutterstock.