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European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 111–122 | Cite as

Physical activity in European adolescents and associations with anxiety, depression and well-being

  • Elaine M. McMahon
  • Paul Corcoran
  • Grace O’Regan
  • Helen Keeley
  • Mary Cannon
  • Vladimir Carli
  • Camilla Wasserman
  • Gergö Hadlaczky
  • Marco Sarchiapone
  • Alan Apter
  • Judit Balazs
  • Maria Balint
  • Julio Bobes
  • Romuald Brunner
  • Doina Cozman
  • Christian Haring
  • Miriam Iosue
  • Michael Kaess
  • Jean-Pierre Kahn
  • Bogdan Nemes
  • Tina Podlogar
  • Vita Poštuvan
  • Pilar Sáiz
  • Merike Sisask
  • Alexandra Tubiana
  • Peeter Värnik
  • Christina W. Hoven
  • Danuta Wasserman
Original Contribution

Abstract

In this cross-sectional study, physical activity, sport participation and associations with well-being, anxiety and depressive symptoms were examined in a large representative sample of European adolescents. A school-based survey was completed by 11,110 adolescents from ten European countries who took part in the SEYLE (Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe) study. The questionnaire included items assessing physical activity, sport participation and validated instruments assessing well-being (WHO-5), depressive symptoms (BDI-II) and anxiety (SAS). Multi-level mixed effects linear regression was used to examine associations between physical activity/sport participation and mental health measures. A minority of the sample (17.9 % of boys and 10.7 % of girls; p < 0.0005) reported sufficient activity based on WHO guidelines (60 min + daily). The mean number of days of at least 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous activity in the past 2 weeks was 7.5 ± 4.4 among boys and 5.9 days ± 4.3 among girls. Frequency of activity was positively correlated with well-being and negatively correlated with both anxiety and depressive symptoms, up to a threshold of moderate frequency of activity. In a multi-level mixed effects model more frequent physical activity and participation in sport were both found to independently contribute to greater well-being and lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms in both sexes. Increasing activity levels and sports participation among the least active young people should be a target of community and school-based interventions to promote well-being. There does not appear to be an additional benefit to mental health associated with meeting the WHO-recommended levels of activity.

Keywords

Adolescent Anxiety Depression Mental health Exercise 

Notes

The SEYLE project is supported through Coordination Theme 1 (Health) of the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7), Grant agreement nr HEALTH-F2-2009-223091. The Project Leader and Coordinator of the SEYLE project is Professor Danuta Wasserman, Karolinska Institute (KI), Head of the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health and Suicide (NASP), at KI, Sweden. Other members of the Executive Committee are Professor Marco Sarchiapone, University of Molise, Italy; Senior Lecturer Vladimir Carli, Karolinska Institute, Sweden; Professor Christina W. Hoven, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, USA; Anthropologist Camilla Wasserman, New York State Psychiatric Institute, USA and Department of Health Sciences, University of Molise, Italy. Site leaders for each SEYLE centre are: Danuta Wasserman (Karolinska Institute, Sweden, Coordinating Centre), Christian Haring (University for Medical Information Technology, Austria), Airi Varnik (Estonian Swedish Mental Health & Suicidology Institute, Estonia), Jean-Pierre Kahn (University of Lorraine, France), Romuald Brunner (University of Heidelberg, Germany), Judit Balazs (Vadaskert Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, Hungary), Paul Corcoran (National Suicide Research Foundation, Ireland), Alan Apter (Tel-Aviv University, Israel), Marco Sarchiapone (University of Molise, Italy), Doina Cosman (Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Romania), Vita Postuvan (University of Primorska, Slovenia) and Julio Bobes (University of Oviedo, Spain).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine M. McMahon
    • 1
  • Paul Corcoran
    • 1
  • Grace O’Regan
    • 1
  • Helen Keeley
    • 2
  • Mary Cannon
    • 3
  • Vladimir Carli
    • 4
  • Camilla Wasserman
    • 5
    • 6
  • Gergö Hadlaczky
    • 4
  • Marco Sarchiapone
    • 6
    • 7
  • Alan Apter
    • 8
  • Judit Balazs
    • 9
    • 10
  • Maria Balint
    • 11
  • Julio Bobes
    • 12
  • Romuald Brunner
    • 13
  • Doina Cozman
    • 14
  • Christian Haring
    • 15
  • Miriam Iosue
    • 6
  • Michael Kaess
    • 13
  • Jean-Pierre Kahn
    • 16
  • Bogdan Nemes
    • 14
  • Tina Podlogar
    • 17
  • Vita Poštuvan
    • 17
  • Pilar Sáiz
    • 12
  • Merike Sisask
    • 18
    • 19
  • Alexandra Tubiana
    • 16
  • Peeter Värnik
    • 18
  • Christina W. Hoven
    • 5
    • 20
  • Danuta Wasserman
    • 4
  1. 1.National Suicide Research FoundationUniversity College CorkCorkIreland
  2. 2.Health Service ExecutiveCorkIreland
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryRoyal College of Surgeons in IrelandDublinIreland
  4. 4.National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health (NASP)Karolinska InstituteStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryNew York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA
  6. 6.Department of Medicine and Health ScienceUniversity of MoliseCampobassoItaly
  7. 7.National Institute for Health, Migration and PovertyRomeItaly
  8. 8.Schneider Children’s Medical Centre of IsraelTel-Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  9. 9.Vadaskert Child and Adolescent Psychiatry HospitalBudapestHungary
  10. 10.Institute of PsychologyEötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  11. 11.Pedagogical Consultation ServicesBudapestHungary
  12. 12.Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud MentalUniversity of OviedoOviedoSpain
  13. 13.Clinic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Centre of Psychosocial MedicineUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  14. 14.Clinical Psychology DepartmentIuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and PharmacyCluj-NapocaRomania
  15. 15.Department Psychiatry and PsychotherapyTirol Kliniken, Hospital Hall in TyrolInnsbruckAustria
  16. 16.Department of Psychiatry and Clinical PsychologyUniversity of LorraineNancyFrance
  17. 17.Slovene Centre for Suicide Research, Andrej Marusic InstituteUniversity of PrimorskaKoperSlovenia
  18. 18.Estonian-Swedish Mental Health and Suicidology Institute (ERSI)TallinnEstonia
  19. 19.School of Governance, Law and SocietyTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia
  20. 20.Department of EpidemiologyMailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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