Physical activity may prevent suicidal symptoms in young adults

Physical activity may prevent suicidal symptoms in young adults

New research at Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, an institute of the University of Tasmania, has found that among young adults diagnosed with clinical depression, those who were physically active were less likely to report suicidal symptoms than those who were physically inactive.

New research at Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, an institute of the University of Tasmania, has found that among young adults diagnosed with clinical depression, those who were physically active were less likely to report suicidal symptoms than those who were physically inactive.

The study was published recently in the international journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Clinical depression is currently the second leading cause of disease burden in young adults and is predicted to be second only to cardiovascular disease as the world's leading cause of death and disability for all ages by 2020.

Research indicates that regular physical activity is beneficial in the prevention and treatment of clinical depression, but this is the first study to examine how participation in physical activity might affect individual depression symptoms.

The study found that young men and women with clinical depression who were physically active had a different pattern of depressive symptoms than those who engaged in low levels of physical activity.

Of note, those who were physically active were less likely to report the presence of sleep disturbance and suicidal symptoms, including thoughts of death and having a suicide plan.

"The relationship between suicidal symptoms and physical activity was particularly consistent and remained robust even after taking depression severity and a range of socio-economic and health characteristics into account," said the study's lead author Dr Charlotte McKercher, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Menzies.

The cross-sectional study examined data from 1,995 young adults from all over Australia who participated in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study from 2004 to 2006. This is an ongoing follow-up study of 8,498 school children who participated in the 1985 Australian Schools Health and Fitness Survey.

"While further research is required, these results suggest that physical activity may have particular benefits in reducing levels of sleep disturbance and suicidal symptoms in young adults with clinical depression," Dr McKercher said.

"Given that suicide is one of the significant causes of death in young adults worldwide, clarifying the efficacy of physical activity in suicide prevention during this critical life stage would be a major advance in public health."

Key contributors to the study include Dr Kristy Sanderson and Professor Alison Venn from Menzies, Professor George Patton and Professor Terry Dwyer from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Assistant Professor Michael Schmidt, from the University of Georgia, USA.

The Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Heart Foundation, the Tasmanian Community Fund and Veolia Environmental Services.

 

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