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Physical activity and mental health in an Irish population

Abstract

Background

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

Aims

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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).

Conclusion

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.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrea K. Bowe.

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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.

Additional information

Key Points

• One third (32%) of the Irish population engage in high levels of physical activity

• Positive mental health is reported by 16% of the population and negative mental health by 9%.

• Compared with those who meet recommended physical activity requirements, those who do not engage in physical activity are three times less likely to report positive mental health and three times more likely to report negative mental health.

• These associations suggest that policy developments around physical activity should take cognisance of the impact on both physical and mental health outcomes.

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Cite this article

Bowe, A.K., Owens, M., Codd, M.B. et al. Physical activity and mental health in an Irish population. Ir J Med Sci 188, 625–631 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-018-1863-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-018-1863-5

Keywords

  • Negative mental health
  • Physical activity
  • Positive mental health