Long-term association between leisure-time physical activity and changes in happiness: analysis of the Prospective National Population Health Survey

Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Dec 15;176(12):1095-100. doi: 10.1093/aje/kws199. Epub 2012 Nov 20.


Happiness is among the most fundamental of all human goals. Although the short-term association between physical activity and happiness is well known, the long-term associations are not. Data from the National Population Health Survey cycles conducted between 1994/1995 and 2008/2009 (cycles 1 through 8) were analyzed. Happy respondents were classified as physically active or inactive at baseline and then were followed up in subsequent cycles to examine their likelihood of becoming unhappy. Individuals who changed their activity level also were examined. After controlling for potential confounding factors, the authors found that leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) was associated with reduced odds of unhappiness after 2 years and 4 years. People who were inactive in 2 consecutive cycles were more than twice as likely to be unhappy as those who remained active in both cycles after 2 years. Compared with those who became active, inactive participants who remained inactive were also more likely to become unhappy. A change in LTPA from active to inactive was associated with increased odds of becoming unhappy 2 years later. This study suggests that LTPA has a long-term association with happiness. Changes in LTPA are associated with subsequent mood status.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sedentary Behavior*