Study Finds Even Light Exercise May Lower Depression Risk in Teens
One study finds depression rates are rising among young people, and another suggests an easy way to reduce risk
February 12, 2020
I’ve got good news and bad news. Let’s start with the latter.
A study set to be published in March in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology has found that more U.S. adolescents and young adults in the late 2010s experienced serious psychological distress than those in the mid-2000s. Researchers came to the alarming conclusion after assessing age, period, and cohort trends in mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes since the mid-2000s, drawing from data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
By comparing data from 2005 and 2017, rates of major depressive episodes in the last year increased by 52 percent among adolescents aged 12 to 17. Study authors found a 63 percent increase among young adults aged 18-25 when comparing 2009 to 2017.
Conversely, researchers found these trends to be weak or nonexistent among adults 26 years old and over. They concluded the analysis suggests a generational shift in mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes rather than an overall increase across all ages.
Now for the good news: exercise is just as good for your mind as it is for your body, and can be a great tool for teenagers to take advantage of as technology makes generations. Another study, published yesterday in psychiatry journal The Lancet, suggests that even light aerobic activity can have a big impact.
Researchers found that 60 minutes of simple movement each day at age 12 was linked to an average 10 percent reduction in depression at age 18. How simple? Running. Walking. Riding a bike. Playing an instrument. Doing chores. Painting. But the more, the merrier. Study authors also found those with persistently high moderate-to-vigorous activity had lower depression scores than those with persistently low moderate-to-vigorous activity.
Meanwhile, the 4,257 adolescent participants who were more sedentary between the ages of 12 and 16 had significantly higher depression scores at 18, compared with those who engaged in more movement activities.
Aaron Kandola, a PhD student in psychiatry at University College London and lead author of the study, observed, “It’s not just more intense forms of activity that are good for our mental health.”
His colleague, Dr. Joseph Hayes, a psychiatrist and clinical research consultant at University College London, added in a statement, “A lot of initiatives promote exercise in young people, but our findings suggest that light activity should be given more attention as well.”
“Schools could integrate light activity into their pupils’ days, such as with standing or active lessons,” Hayes said. “It doesn’t require much effort and it’s easy to fit into the daily routines of most young people.”
About the Writer:
Greg Gilman spent nearly a decade as an entertainment news reporter and editor for publications including Perez Hilton, TheWrap and TMZ’s TooFab. He left that life behind at the start of 2019, and spent the year detoxing his mind from the pop culture poison that had accumulated over the last decade. Now, he’s focused on writing pieces that are beneficial for the world around him, in between gigs as the frontman of LA rock band, Greg in Good Company. He has suffered from depression and anxiety, and is still trying to conquer an addiction to screens and social media, but has found studying Eastern spiritual philosophies to be tremendously helpful in his quest for peace of mind.
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