Physical activity had a protective effect against the emergence of depression across all age groups and geographical locations, according to findings published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
“Given the breadth of depressive disorders and the individual and societal burden, strategies that may reduce the onset of depression are urgently needed,” Felipe B. Schuch, PhD, from the Universidade La Salle in Brazil, and colleagues wrote. “Systematic reviews have suggested that physical activity is a protective factor for depression onset, with even small amounts of physical activity (eg, walking 150 minutes per week) decreasing the incidence of future depressive episodes.”
Researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies that examined the role of physical activity in reducing the risk for incident depression using clinical databases. They collected data from 49 studies of 266,939 people followed for 1,837,794 person-years to examine potential moderators of depression — including age at baseline, geographical area, sex, length of follow-up, study quality, covariates, study sample size and total person-years.
Schuch and colleagues found that people with high levels of physical activity were less likely to develop depression than those with low levels (adjusted OR = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.79-0.88). The results showed that physical activity had a protective effect against the emergence of depression in young people (adjusted OR = 0.9; 95% CI, 0.83-0.98), adults (adjusted OR = 0.78; 95% CI, 0.7-0.87) and the elderly (adjusted OR = 0.79; 95% CI, 0.72-0.86).
Physical activity had a protective effect against the emergence of depression across all age groups and geographical locations, according to study findings.
“Our robust analysis of over a quarter of a million people found consistent evidence that people who are more active are less likely to develop depression in the future,” Brendon Stubbs, PhD, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London, said in the press release. “Given the multitude of other health benefits of physical activity, our data add to the pressing calls to prioritize physical activity across the lifespan.”
These protective effects were found across geographical regions and against higher incidence of screening positive for depressive symptoms (adjusted OR = 0.84; 95% CI, 0.79-0.89) or receiving diagnosis for major depression (adjusted OR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.75-0.98). Overall study quality was moderate to high, according to the authors.
“The compelling evidence presented here provides an even stronger case for engaging all people in regular physical activity, through schools, workplaces, leisure programs and elsewhere, in order to reduce the risk of depression across the lifespan,” Joseph Firth, PhD, from the NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, said in the release. – by Savannah Demko
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.