University of Oulu

Kaseva, Kaisa; Dobewall, Henrik; Yang, Xiaolin; Pulkki-Råback, Laura; Lipsanen, Jari; Hintsa, Taina; Hintsanen, Mirka; Puttonen, Sampsa; Hirvensalo, Mirja; Elovainio, Marko; Raitakari, Olli; Tammelin, Tuija (2019) Physical activity, sleep, and symptoms of depression in adults : testing for mediation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2019, Volume 51, Issue 6, p 1162-1168, doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001896

Physical activity, sleep, and symptoms of depression in adults : testing for mediation

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Author: Kaseva, Kaisa1; Dobewall, Henrik1,2; Yang, Xiaolin3;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND
2Faculty of Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, FINLAND
3LIKES Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health, Jyväskylä, FINLAND
4Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND
5School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern Finland, FINLAND
6Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND
7Department of Sport Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, FINLAND
8Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, FINLAND
9Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, FINLAND
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Wolters Kluwer, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-06-01


Purpose: Physical activity, sleep problems, and symptoms of depression contribute to overall well-being. The factors are reciprocally associated, but the nature of these associations remains unclear. The present study examined whether sleep problems mediated the association between physical activity and depressive symptoms.

Methods: The eligible population (n = 3596) consisted of adults from the ongoing, population-based Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study started in 1980. Participants’ leisure-time physical activity was assessed with physical activity index (2007) and sleep problems with Jenkins’ Sleep Questionnaire in 2007 and 2011. Depressive symptoms were measured using modified Beck Depression Inventory in 2007 and 2012, from which the items reflecting sleep problems were excluded. Mediation analyses, through which the associations between the variables were examined, were adjusted for sex and a set of health-related covariates assessed in 2007 and 2011.

Results: Physical activity was associated with decreased levels of sleep problems and depressive symptoms (P < 0.05). The association between physical activity and depressive symptoms (b = −0.10, P < 0.01) was partly mediated by sleep problems (proportion mediated = 0.36, P < 0.01). The adjustment for depressive symptoms at baseline attenuated the mediation effect (proportion mediated = 0.30, P > 0.05).

Conclusions: Physical activity’s favorable contribution to depressive symptoms was mediated partly by sleep, but the mediation effect disappeared after adjusting for the previous depressive symptoms in adulthood.

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Series: Medicine & science in sports & exercise
ISSN: 0195-9131
ISSN-E: 1530-0315
ISSN-L: 0195-9131
Volume: 51
Issue: 6
Pages: 1162 - 1168
DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001896
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
Funding: The present study was funded by Academy of Finland (grant 258578), Ministry of Education and Culture, Kone Foundation and Urheiluopistosäätiö.
Dataset Reference: Supplemental digital content is available for this article.
Copyright information: © 2019 American College of Sports Medicine. The final authenticated version is available online at