Psychobiology and behavioral strategies. Physical activity, sport participation, and suicidal behavior: U.S. high school students

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Dec;39(12):2248-57. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e31815793a3.


Purpose: To evaluate the associations of physical activity and sports team participation with suicidal behavior among U.S. high school students.

Methods: Data were from the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (N = 10,530 respondents). Exposure variables included physical activity (inactive, insufficient, moderately intensive, regular vigorously intensive, and frequent vigorously intensive) and sports team participation. Outcome variables were suicide ideation (seriously considering and/or planning suicide) and suicide attempts. Hierarchical logistic regressions were run, controlling for age, race, smoking, alcohol use, drug use, geographic region, unhealthy weight-control practices, and body mass index/weight perceptions.

Results: Compared with inactive students or sports team nonparticipants, the odds of suicide ideation were lower among boys reporting frequent vigorous-intensity physical activity (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.48; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.29, 0.79) and sports team participation, respectively (AOR = 0.65; 95% CI = 0.48, 0.86). The odds of suicide attempts were also lower among frequently vigorously active boys (AOR = 0.44; 95% CI = 0.21, 0.96) and sports team participants (AOR = 0.61; 95% CI = 0.40, 0.93). The odds of suicide attempts were lower for regular vigorously active girls compared with inactive girls (AOR = 0.67; 95% CI = 0.45, 0.99) and sports team participants compared with nonparticipants (AOR = 0.73; 95% CI = 0.57, 0.94). Associations with one exposure variable generally weakened when adjustment was made for the other exposure variable, or for feeling sad and hopeless.

Conclusions: The association of physical activity and sports team participation with suicide ideation and suicide attempts varied by sex. Further research is needed to clarify these different associations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology