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Active kids less likely to develop depression as adults

3 May 2011

Deakin University researchers have found that being physically active in childhood could protect against depression later in life.

In a study of self-reported levels of physical activity and depression in 2152 women and men from south-eastern Australia, the researchers found that those reporting low physical activity levels as a child were 35 per cent more likely to report depression in adulthood compared to those reporting higher levels of physical activity in childhood. This association was apparent even after taking adult physical activity levels into account.

Dr Felice Jacka, a researcher with Deakin’s School of Medicine based at Barwon Health in Geelong, said that being physically active as a child may be important to adult mental health.

“The results of our study suggest that physical activity may protect against the development of depression and supports the encouragement of regular physical activity in children,” Dr Jacka said.

“Childhood is a period of rapid brain development and physical activity in early life may have beneficial effects on the developing brain through its impact on important brain proteins and oxidative stress.

“Involvement in sport is also known to influence the development of important coping and stress management skills in children and adolescents and has been shown to be associated with greater emotional wellbeing in adolescents.

“Conversely, low levels of physical activity are linked with lower levels of social support in young adults which may influence risk factors for depression over one’s life.”

The results of the study, Lower levels of physical activity in childhood associated with adult depression, are published in the May issue of The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport published by Sports Medicine Australia.

News facts
  • Research suggests being physically active as a child could protect against depression as an adult
  • Study analysed self-reported levels of physical activity and depression in 2152 women and men from south-eastern Australia
  • Results published in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890
mandi.ogarretty@deakin.edu.au

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3rd May 2011