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The association between physical activity and depression among individuals residing in Brazil



There is very limited literature investigating the association between physical activity (PA) and depression in South American countries such as Brazil. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the prevalence of depression and its association with PA in a very large, representative sample of young adults (ages 18–39 years) (YA), middle-aged adults (ages 40–59 years) (MAA) and older adults (ages ≥ 60 years) (OA) residing in Brazil.


The sample for this cross-sectional study was based on the Brazilian National Health Survey conducted in 2013. The Personal Health Questionnaire depression scale (PHQ-8) was applied to measure current (past 2 weeks) depression as the outcome of interest, and the exposure was self-reported PA for leisure. Multivariable weighted logistic regression models were conducted to investigate the association between PA and depression while adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and number of health comorbidities among YA, MAA and OA.


The final study sample size was 59,399 (33,480 females; 25,919 males). After adjusting for the covariates of interest, the lack of PA for leisure was associated with a significant increase in depression only among males (YA: OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.02–2.06; MAA: OR 2.38, 95% CI 1.40–4.03; OA: OR 5.35, 95% CI 2.14–13.37). There was no significant association between PA for leisure and depression among females of all age groups.


Although PA for leisure is not associated with depression among Brazilian females, the obtained results suggest that this association is significant among Brazilian males, who may be able to benefit from PA for leisure to reduce their symptoms of depression.

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Research reported in this publication was supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Grant no. P20GM103442.

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Correspondence to S. Cristina Oancea.

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All human studies have been approved by the appropriate ethics committee and have therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.

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de Oliveira, G.D., Oancea, S.C., Nucci, L.B. et al. The association between physical activity and depression among individuals residing in Brazil. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 53, 373–383 (2018).

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  • Brazil
  • Physical activity
  • Depression
  • PNS
  • National Health Survey