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Physical activity reduces depression risk for all people

By Melanie Hinze
Engaging in physical activity reduces the risk of developing depression, regardless of age, gender or geographic location, according to a global meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers from Brazil, Belgium, Australia, USA, UK and Sweden pooled data from 49 prospective cohort studies that evaluated patients who were free from depression or depressive symptoms at baseline.

The researchers also looked at variables that might affect the results, including length of follow up, study quality, number of covariates used in the model, study sample size and total person-years.

Overall, 266,939 individuals were included in the analysis, with an almost equal gender distribution and an average follow up of 7.4 years.

After accounting for variables, the results indicated that higher levels of physical activity offered a protective effect on the future development of depression for people of all ages including children and youths, working-age adults and the elderly. This effect was observed for both sexes, and it was significant across all geographic regions.

Conjoint Associate Professor Josephine Anderson, Clinical Director at the Black Dog Institute, Sydney, said the findings meant GPs could confidently prescribe exercise for the mental and physical wellbeing of their patients.

She said data to date had suggested that as little as one hour per week would avert 12% of episodes of depression in the general population.

The new study ‘found that higher levels of exercise (e.g. 150 minutes per week) were consistently associated with even lower risk for developing depression,’ she told Medicine Today.

‘Armed with this now large and robust body of evidence about the beneficial effects of exercise on mood, GPs are well placed to encourage all their patients to incorporate regular exercise into their daily routine,’ Dr Anderson said.
Am J Psychiatry 2018; 00: 1-18; doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17111194.