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Physical activity as a protective factor against depressive symptoms in older Chinese veterans in the community: result from a national cross-sectional study

Authors Du W, Tan J, Yi F, Zou Y, Gao Y, Zhao Y, Wang L

Received 4 January 2015

Accepted for publication 12 February 2015

Published 23 March 2015 Volume 2015:11 Pages 803—813


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Wai Kwong Tang

Wen-Jin Du,1 Ji-Ping Tan,1 Fang Yi,1 Yong-Ming Zou,1 Ya Gao,1 Yi-Ming Zhao,2 Lu-Ning Wang1

1Department of Geriatric Neurology, Clinical Division of South Building, Chinese PLA General Hospital, 2Research Center of Clinical Epidemiology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Background: Physical activity is generally considered to be effective in reducing the prevalence of depression and promoting remission of its symptoms. However, large-scale epidemiological research on this issue is lacking in older Chinese adults. We performed a nationwide epidemiological survey to determine the relationship between physical activity and depressive symptoms in older Chinese veterans in the community, with adjustment for potential confounders.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a representative sample of 9,676 community-dwelling older Chinese veterans. Depressive symptoms were identified using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Physical activity was self-reported using a one-year physical activity questionnaire. Information about covariates was obtained by questionnaire-based interview. Relationships between study variables and symptoms of depression were estimated using unadjusted and adjusted analyses.
Results: The median age was 82.29 (interquartile range 80.25–84.60) years. In total, 81.84% of the study participants engaged in physical activity that was predominantly light in intensity.
In unadjusted analyses, physical activity was associated with a significantly decreased likelihood of depressive symptoms (5.43% versus 18.83%, P<0.0001). Multivariate logistic regression with adjustment and controlling for confounders, physical activity was still inversely associated with depressive symptoms and was the only independent protective factor (odds ratio 0.57, 95% confidence interval 0.44–0.72, P<0.0001) among the associated factors in this study. In a univariate general linear model, there was a significant difference in Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale score between subjects participating in active physical activity and those who did not (F=59.07, P<0.0001).
Conclusion: This study found an inverse relationship between physical activity and symptoms of depression in older Chinese veterans in the community. It was also indicated that the antidepressant effect of physical activity probably extended to the oldest-old, and the light-intensity physical activity was probably available for the same protective effect. This information could be used to devise further interventions to prevent or ameliorate symptoms of depression.

Keywords: physical activity, depression, protective factor, older adults, Chinese veteran

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