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Physical activity dose and depression in a cohort of older adults in the Irish longitudinal study on ageing

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posted on 2023-07-27, 09:19 authored by Eamon LairdEamon Laird, Charlotte Lund Rasmussen, Rose Anne Kenny, Matthew HerringMatthew Herring

IMPORTANCE Among older adults (aged _50 years), depression is associated with an increased risk of physical, social, and cognitive dysfunction. Regular moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) has been associated with lower odds of depression. However, the lowest dose for protection against depression and the extent to which exceeding this level conveys additional protection are unknown. OBJECTIVE To evaluate different MVPA doses, depressive symptoms, and major depression status in a large cohort of older adults with and without chronic disease. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS A longitudinal cohort study of the same 4016 individuals at each of 5 time points (ie, waves) from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing was conducted. Data were collected from October 2009 to December 2018, and data were analyzed from June 15 to August 8, 2022. EXPOSURES Continuous MVPA (metabolic equivalent of task [MET]–minutes per week [MET-min/wk]), 3 dose categories, and 5 dose categories measured with the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Depressive symptoms and major depression status were measured using the short form of the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale along with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview for diagnosis of a major depressive episode during the past 12 months. Multivariable negative random-effects binomial regression models, adjusted for relevant covariates, quantified associations across time. RESULTS Among the 4016 participants at each wave of the study (2205 women [54.9%]; mean [SD] age, 61.0 [8.1] years) during 10.0 years of follow-up, depression rates increased from a mean of 8.2% (95% CI, 7.4%-9.1%) to 12.2% (95% CI, 11.2%-13.2%). Bonferroni-corrected post hoc analysis indicated that participants performing 400 to less than 600 MET-min/wk had a 16% lower rate of depressive symptoms (adjusted incidence rate ratio [AIRR], 0.84; 95% CI, 0.81-0.86) and 43% lower odds of depression (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.57; 95% CI, 0.49-0.66) compared with 0 MET-min/wk. Those with chronic disease performing 600 to less than 1200 MET-min/wk had an 8% (AIRR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.86-0.98) lower rate of depressive symptoms and 44% (AOR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.42-0.74) lower odds of depression compared with 0 MET-min/wk. Those without disease required more than 2400 MET-min/wk for similar protection for depressive symptoms (AIRR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.73-0.90). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE In this cohort study of older adults, significant antidepressant benefits were noted for MVPA doses below current recommendations for overall health, although greater doses were associated with larger AIRR reductions. It may be useful for public health  interventions to investigate the achievability of lower physical activity thresholds among older adults with and without chronic illness to reduce the risk of depression. 



JAMA Network Open 6(7), e2322489


American Medical Association

Other Funding information

Health Research Board of Ireland Irish Government, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and Irish Life PLC.

Also affiliated with

  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

Sustainable development goals

  • (3) Good Health and Well-being

Department or School

  • Physical Education and Sports Science

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