Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 188, Issue 2, pp 625–631 | Cite as

Physical activity and mental health in an Irish population

  • Andrea K. BoweEmail author
  • Miriam Owens
  • Mary B. Codd
  • Brian A. Lawlor
  • Ronan W. Glynn
Original Article



Physical activity represents a modifiable behaviour which may be associated with increased likelihood of experiencing positive mental health.


The aim of this study was to examine the association between self-rated physical activity and subjective indicators of both positive and negative mental health in an Irish adult population.


Based on data from a population-based, observational, cross-sectional study, participants were categorised using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) into those who reported that they did and did not meet recommended physical activity requirements. Self-reported positive and negative mental health indicators were assessed using the Energy and Vitality Index (EVI) and the Mental Health Index-5 (MHI-5) from the SF-36 Health Survey Instrument, respectively. Binary logistic regression was used to identify variables independently associated with self-reported positive and negative mental health.


A total of 7539 respondents were included in analysis. Overall, 32% reported that they met recommended minimal physical activity requirements. Self-reported positive and negative mental health were reported by 16 and 9% of respondents, respectively. Compared with those who reported meeting-recommended physical activity requirements, those performing no physical activity were three times less likely to report positive mental health (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 0.39, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.28–0.55) and three times more likely to report negative mental health (OR 3.27, 95% CI 2.38–4.50).


Compared with those who do not, those who report meeting-recommended physical activity requirements are more and less likely to report experiencing positive and negative mental health, respectively. Future policy development around physical activity should take cognisance of the impact of this activity on both physical and mental health outcomes.


Negative mental health Physical activity Positive mental health 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This study is an observational study using publicly available data which was collected as part of the Healthy Ireland Survey 2015. This survey was ethically approved by the Research Ethics Committee at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea K. Bowe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Miriam Owens
    • 3
  • Mary B. Codd
    • 1
  • Brian A. Lawlor
    • 4
    • 5
  • Ronan W. Glynn
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports ScienceUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  2. 2.James Connolly Memorial HospitalDublin 15Ireland
  3. 3.Department of HealthDublin 2Ireland
  4. 4.NEIL Research ProgrammeTrinity College Institute of NeuroscienceDublin 2Ireland
  5. 5.Mercer’s Institute for Successful AgeingSt. James’s HospitalDublin 8Ireland
  6. 6.Department of Public Health Medicine, Health Service ExecutiveDr. Steevens’ HospitalDublin 8Ireland

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