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Depression is Associated with Moderate-Intensity Physical Activity Among College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Differs by Activity Level, Gender and Gender Role

Authors Lin J, Guo T, Becker B, Yu Q, Chen ST, Brendon S, Hossain MM, Cunha PM, Soares FC, Veronese N, Yu JJ, Grabovac I, Smith L, Yeung A, Zou L, Li H

Received 20 August 2020

Accepted for publication 7 October 2020

Published 2 December 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 1123—1134

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S277435

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Jingyuan Lin,1,* Tianyou Guo,2,* Benjamin Becker,3 Qian Yu,2 Si-Tong Chen,4 Stubbs Brendon,5 Md Mahbub Hossain,6 Paolo M Cunha,7 Fernanda Cunha Soares,8 Nicola Veronese,9 Jane Jie Yu,10 Igor Grabovac,11 Lee Smith,12 Albert Yeung,13 Liye Zou,2 Hong Li1

1Research Centre of Brain Function and Psychological Science; Center for Language and Brain, Shenzhen Institute of Neuroscience; Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Affective and Social Cognitive Science, School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518060, People’s Republic of China; 2Exercise and Mental Health Laboratory, School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, People’s Republic of China; 3The Clinical Hospital of Chengdu Brain Science Institute, MOE Key Laboratory for Neuroinformation, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu 610054, Sichuan, People’s Republic of China; 4Institute for Health and Sport, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, 8001, Australia; 5Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK; 6Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA; 7Metabolism, Nutrition, and Exercise Laboratory, Londrina State University, Londrina, Paraná 86010-580, Brazil; 8Superior School of Physical Education, University of Pernambuco, Recife, PE, Brazil; 9Geriatric Unit, Department of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, University of Palermo, Palermo 90100, Italy; 10Department of Sports Science and Physical Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories 999077, Hong Kong; 11Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna, 1090 Wien, Austria; 12The Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge CB1 1PT, UK; 13Depression Clinical and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence: Hong Li
Research Centre of Brain Function and Psychological Science; Center for Language and Brain, Shenzhen Institute of Neuroscience; Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Affective and Social Cognitive Science, School of Psychology, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, People’s Republic of China
Email [email protected]

Purpose: The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and associated restrictive measures have implications for depressive symptoms (henceforth depression) of young people and risk may be associated with their reduced physical activity (PA) level. Therefore, we aimed to examine the association between depressive symptoms and PA among college students with different gender and gender role (masculinity traits and femininity traits) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants and Methods: Cross-sectional study included 628 healthy college students from nineteen different locations. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scales (CES-D), the International Physical Activity Questionnaire - Short Form (IPAQ-SF), and the 50-item Chinese Sex-Role Inventory (CSRI-50) were used to measure depressive symptoms, PA continuous (weekly metabolic equivalent minutes, MET-minutes/week) and categorical indicators (activity level category) and gender role, respectively. The statistical analyses were used in partial correlation analysis, t-test, one-way ANOVA, moderation model tests, and linear regression model tests.
Results: Total of 34.72% participants had clinically relevant depression (16, CES-D scale). Total of 58.6% participants were classified as a “low” activity level for spending less time on PA. Depression significantly negatively correlated with MET-minutes/week in moderate-intensity PA but not vigorous and walking scores. Of note, the depression-PA association was only moderated by the “low” activity level group in terms of categorical scores across gender groups. Participants with higher masculinity traits were less likely to have depression among all participants. Moreover, more recovered cases and fewer deaths could also predict the lower depression risk in the “high” activity level group.
Conclusion: Moderate-intensity PA is beneficial for reducing depression risk among college students at a low activity level. College students with fewer masculinity traits (regardless of gender) are highly vulnerable to depression during the outbreak of COVID-19. Effective control of the COVID-19 pandemic seems critical to alleviating the burden of mental disorders of the public including depression.

Keywords: depression, physical activity, gender, masculinity, femininity, COVID-19

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