Associations of physical activity with positive mental health: A population-based study

Elsevier, Mental Health and Physical Activity, Volume 18, March 2020
Tamminen N., Reinikainen J., Appelqvist-Schmidlechner K., Borodulin K., Maki-Opas T., Solin P.

The relationship between physical activity (PA) and positive mental health (PMH) has been studied mainly by either concentrating on total PA or focusing on leisure time PA. This study investigated whether total PA and PA domains of leisure time, commuting and occupational PA and screen time sitting at home were associated with PMH. Methods: The study used a national population study, the FinHealth 2017 Study that included the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) as a measurement for PMH. Of all (n = 10305, of whom 10247 were eligible) invited, 58.1% (5952) participated in health examination and were given a questionnaire including the WEMWBS. A total of 5337 (52.1% of the eligible sample, 89.7% of the health examination participants) returned the questionnaire. The WEMWBS scale was adequately completed by 5090 participants (55.6% women, mean age 55.5 years). Low, moderate and high level of PMH categories were formed. Leisure time, occupational and commuting PA domains were assessed separately and together as a total PA index. Also, screen time sitting at home was measured. Binary logistic regression models were utilized to estimate the odds ratios for having low PMH compared with moderate PMH and separately for having high PMH compared with moderate PMH. The models were estimated both with and without adjustment for potential confounders. Results: Physical inactivity (total PA) was associated with lower levels of PMH. Some of the PA domains were strongly associated with low PMH; leisure time physical inactivity and long screen time sitting at home were strongly related to higher odds of low PMH. Commuting PA was associated with high PMH. Conclusions: The study highlights the importance of PA with relation to PMH among adults. Especially, physical inactivity was strongly associated with low PMH. As low levels of PMH can potentially present a risk for mental ill-health, this study suggests it is important to increase PA among the least active population.