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STUDY: Depression and physical activity among adults with multiple sclerosis

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  • STUDY: Depression and physical activity among adults with multiple sclerosis

    Depression and physical activity among adults with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, and post-polio syndrome

    A.M. Verrall, H. Bombardier, R. Rosenberg, B. Artherholt, W. Motl, M. Jensen (Seattle, Urbana, US)

    Background and goals: Physical inactivity is thought to be a modifiable risk factor for depression in non-disabled individuals. However, the relationship between inactivity and depression is less certain among adults with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other disability groups including spinal cord injury (SCI), muscular dystrophy (MD), and post-polio syndrome (PPS). People with MS and SCI are characterized by higher rates of inactivity and depression, suggesting a potential relationship. People with MD and PPS are also relatively inactive, yet the prevalence of depression in these two groups remains unclear. This study was designed to examine physical activity and depression as well as the relationship between these two conditions across disability groups. Our goal was to identify overarching predictors of depression and to determine whether physical activity represents a modifiable risk factor for depression that is universal to these groups.

    Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 1,676 community-residing participants (MD=321, PPS=338, MS=556, SCI=411) from throughout the United States. We used the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) to assess depression and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (GLTEQ) to assess physical activity. We performed two multiple linear regression analyses to predict depression scores while adjusting for potential confounders.

    Results: The average age was 55.9, 64.4% were female, 91.9% were white, 55.4% had a college degree or higher, and 55.7% walked with an assistive device or had limited self-mobility. Higher PHQ-9 scores were associated with a higher body mass index, female sex, lower education, age (depression was higher in middle age compared to younger and older groups), having MS, and greater mobility disability. The IPAQ and GLTEQ explained a small but significant amount of the variance in PHQ-9 scores with no differences in the relationship by diagnosis, age, or mobility status.

    Conclusions: Having MS was associated with higher depression scores compared to other diagnostic groups. Both physical activity measures were significantly related to depression across all diagnostic groups, but only explained a small amount of the variance. The influence of obesity and mobility disability on depression merits further study. Longitudinal research is needed as well as studies of whether physical activity interventions can improve depression among adults with MS and other physical disabilities.
    Dave Bexfield