Depression and Its Relationship to Physical Activity and Obesity

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The Ohio State University

Research Projects

Organizational Units

Journal Issue


The rates of depression and obesity in the United States have both been steadily increasing in recent years. Decreased levels of physical activity may be associated with increases in both depression and obesity, leading to increases in health care costs. The purpose of this study is to identify whether incidence or severity of depression is related to frequency or intensity of physical activity and to identify whether there is a continuing trend in the relationship between depression and obesity. Depression data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (n = 5392) were analyzed to assess the relations among physical activity, obesity and depression. Moderate to severe depressive symptoms were established at Depression Screener (PHQ-9) scores ≥10. Physical activity was tabulated for the frequency (activities per week) and duration (minutes per week) of moderate, vigorous, sedentary, and total physical activity. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from measured height and weight values (kg/m2). The average number of depressive symptoms for obese individuals was 3.53 compared to 2.84 for normal weight participants. Depressed individuals spent less time doing moderate (0.76 days, 12.99 minutes per day) and vigorous physical activity (0.28 days, 6.61 minutes per day) than those without depression (1.51 days, 31.43 minutes per day moderate activity, 0.88 days, 21.84 minutes per day vigorous activity). Mean BMI (30.3 kg/m2 with depression, 28.5 kg/m2 without depression) and waist circumference measures (110.2 cm with depression, 103.1 cm without depression) were found to be significantly higher with depression (p<0.001). These results support the need for further research to assess the effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of depression, particularly in conjunction with treatment for obesity.



depression, health care costs, exercise, obesity, NHANES, weight