Physical activity is directly related to the risk of depression in married women, but not in married men

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In a recent study published in BMC Public Health, researchers explored the association between physical exercise and depression risk among married individuals.

Study: Relationship between physical activity and risk of depression in a married group. Image Credit: ViDI Studio/Shutterstock.comStudy: Relationship between physical activity and risk of depression in a married group. Image Credit: ViDI Studio/Shutterstock.com

Background

Depression is a global health problem that causes chronic discomfort, low back pain, headaches, insomnia, rage, and deteriorating family connections.

Physical activity, including aerobic and anaerobic exercise, positive yoga, and tai chi, can help alleviate sadness. Physical exercise and depression have a complicated association that varies by gender and marital status.

According to studies, poor marital status reduces engagement in physical activity, whereas excellent marital status promotes it. Gender also influences sports behavior, with married women participating in less physical activity than married males.

About the study

In the present study, researchers investigated whether physical activity influenced depression risk among married adults.

The team included 15,607 married individuals from the 2020 China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) conducted by the Institute of Social Science Survey (ISSS) at Peking University, excluding 3,734 individuals with incomplete or interrupted interviews and 9,249 with missing data or ineligibility.

They evaluate depression risk using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), with scores above 20 indicating a high risk.

The physical exercise assessment excluded cycling and walking for going to and from work. The team used the chi-square non-parametric test, Mann-Whitney U non-parametric test, and binary logistic regressions to investigate the impact of physical exercise on depression risk among married individuals.

They also included proximal factors associated with psychological status and physical behavior, such as age, sex, residence, marital status, and work status.

Other factors included marital relationships, life feelings, and social relations. Marital relationship components assessed were marital satisfaction concerning the economic and domestic contributions of the partners. Life feelings investigated were life satisfaction, subjective wellness, and self-perceived fitness.

The social relation components explored were subjective interpersonal relations and subjective social reputation. The researchers explored gender differences by making separate comparisons between the low-risk and high-risk groups of depression.

Results

In total365 (4.8%) males and 527 (6.6%) females were at high risk of depression; researchers found physical activity associated with depression risk among study participants.

They noted higher depression levels in rural areas, the western side, low educational attainment, and middle- to old-age populations.

The only significant risk was discovered among females with children below 16 years old, whereas the group of married females without children below 16 years was more depressed. Regarding employment status, unemployed males were more depressed than females. The chi-square test revealed no significant differences between the two groups.

The Mann-Whiteny test found no significant difference in perceived social status between married women and male in-marriage couples. However, guys in marriage demonstrated extremely significant disparities in all factors.

Among low-risk individuals, the researchers found sex-based differences in exercise frequency, marital satisfaction, financial contribution, domestic help, self-perceived general health, and subjective wellness.

They found gender differences in marital contentment, financial contribution, household contributions, self-perceived general health, and social standing among high-risk individuals.

There were statistically significant sex-based differences in exercise frequency among low-risk individuals but none among their high-risk counterparts.

The findings indicate that researchers must consider gender differences when investigating the association between physical exercise and depression risk.

After combining demographic and important cognitive characteristics, binary regressions revealed that the relationship between exercise frequency and depression in women was statistically significant (odds ratio, 0.9).

Physical activity was inversely related to the depression risk in women. However, the link with depression in males was not statistically significant (odds ratio, 1.0).  

Higher life satisfaction, self-perceived fitness, and subjective wellness reduced the likelihood of depression. Marital satisfaction also influenced depression risk in women, with more satisfaction lowering the risk. Male depression risk was related to subjective interpersonal relationships, but female depression risk was not.

Conclusions

The study findings showed a negative link between physical activity and depression in marital relationships, particularly among women, indicating that dealing with unpleasant emotions among married females might improve happiness and family harmony.

Although there was no significant association between physical activity and depression in married males, the spouse’s depression may have an impact on family functioning and marital happiness.

Physical activity can assist in relieving mental distress and sustaining family harmony. The report proposes increasing attention to women’s mental health, enhanced social support networks for women’s engagement in sports, and enrichment of material, opportunity, and cultural resources.

Regular physical activity, particularly sports that require collective involvement, might help energize the family dynamic.

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