December/January 2014/2015 (vol. 11/4)

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Research Plus

Physical activity reduces depression risk in adults

Analysis of the 1958 British Birth Cohort – a population sample of 18,558 people born in a single week in March 1958 – indicates a link between physical activity in adult life and depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms were assessed at ages 23, 33, 42 and 50 years. Mean leisure-time physical activity for men varied from 1.37 times a week at age 23, to 2.65 times a week at age 50, and 0.63 to 2.85 times a week for women over the same period. Increased physical activity was associated with fewer depressive symptoms. The mean number of symptoms was lower by 0.13 for every additional unit of physical activity per week at age 23 (CI -0.16 – -0.11) and by 0.06 at age 50 (CI -0.09 – -0.04). Increasing physical activity from zero to three times a week five years later reduced the probability of having depression by 19% (odds ratio = 0.81; CI 0.76–0.87). Having more depressive symptoms was also predictive of taking less physical activity in younger age groups, with the association weakening with age. 

  1. Depressive symptoms and physical activity during three decades in adult life. JAMA Psychiatry 2014; online first: doi: 10.1001/ jamapsychiatry.2014.1240. 


Occupational Health at Work December/January 2014/2015 (vol. 11/4) pp40