Original research| Volume 14, ISSUE 3, P222-226, May 2011

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Lower levels of physical activity in childhood associated with adult depression

Published:December 14, 2010DOI:


      Emerging evidence indicates that early life exposures influence adult health outcomes and there is cause to hypothesise a role for physical activity (PA) in childhood as a protective factor in adult depression. This study aimed to investigate the association between self-reported levels of PA in childhood and self-reported depressive illness. Lifetime depression and levels of physical activity (low/high) in childhood (<15 yr) were ascertained by self-report in 2152 adults (20–97 yr) participating in an ongoing epidemiological study in south-eastern Australia. Data were collected between 2000 and 2006. In this sample, 141 women (18.9%) and 169 men (12.0%) reported ever having a depressive episode. Low PA in childhood was associated with an increased risk of reporting depression in adulthood (OR = 1.70, 95%CI = 1.32–2.17, p < 0.001). Adjustment for age, gender and adult PA attenuated the relationship somewhat (OR = 1.35, 95%CI = 1.01–1.78, p = 0.04), however further adjustment for SES or country of birth did not affect this relationship. In this community-based study, lower levels of self-reported PA in childhood were associated with a 35% increase in odds for self-reported depression in adulthood. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that lower levels of PA in childhood may be a risk factor for adult depression.


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