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Physical Activity and Depression Symptom Profiles in Young Men and Women With Major Depression

McKercher, Charlotte PhD; Patton, George C. PhD; Schmidt, Michael D. PhD; Venn, Alison J. PhD; Dwyer, Terence MD; Sanderson, Kristy PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31828c4d53
Original Articles
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Objective This study explored whether young adults with major depression who are physically active differ in their depression symptom profile from those physically inactive.

Methods Analyses included data from 950 (47.6%) men and 1045 women (mean [standard deviation] age = 31.5 [2.6] years) participating in a national study. Participants reported leisure physical activity (International Physical Activity Questionnaire) and ambulatory activity (pedometer steps per day). Diagnosis and symptoms of major depression were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview.

Results Prevalence of major depression was 5.5% (n = 52) for men and 11.6% (n = 121) for women. Interactions between physical activity and sex were observed for depressed mood, appetite changes, vacillating thoughts, and suicidality (all, p < .050). Among those with major depression, physically active men were significantly less likely to endorse the presence of insomnia (prevalence ratio [PR] = 0.78, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.63–0.96), fatigue (PR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.69–0.99), and suicidality (PR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.49–0.96) compared with inactive men. Physically active women were significantly less likely to endorse hypersomnia (PR = 0.50, 95% CI = 0.27–0.95), excessive/irrational guilt (PR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.59–0.97), vacillating thoughts (PR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.58–0.95), and suicidality (PR = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.20–0.89) compared with inactive women. Associations were adjusted for age, physical health, educational attainment, depression severity, and other depressive symptoms.

Conclusions Among adults with major depression, those physically active seem to differ in their depression symptom profile from those physically inactive.

From the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania (C.M., M.D.S., A.J.V., K.S.), University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia; Department of Kinesiology (M.D.S.), University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia; Department of Paediatrics (G.C.P.), University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia; and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (G.C.P., T.D.), Melbourne, Australia.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Charlotte McKercher, PhD, Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 23, Hobart TAS 7000, Australia. E-mail: Charlotte.McKercher@utas.edu.au

Received for publication May 15, 2012; revision received January 20, 2013.

Copyright © 2013 by American Psychosomatic Society
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