Physical Activity, Gender Difference, and Depressive Symptoms

Health Serv Res. 2015 Oct;50(5):1550-73. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.12285. Epub 2015 Jan 28.


Objective: To investigate the roles of physical activity (exercise) and sociodemographic factors in depressive symptoms among men and women in the United States.

Data source: 2011 U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Study design: Patient Health Questionnaire Depression Scale (PHQ-8) scores are aggregated and divided into five categories. An ordered switching probability model with binary endogenous physical activity is developed to accommodate ordinality of depression categories and ameliorate statistical biases due to endogeneity of physical activity.

Principal findings: Average treatment effects suggest physical activity ameliorates depressive symptoms among mildly and moderately depressed individuals, most notably among mildly depressed women. Gender differences exist in the roles of sociodemographic factors, with age, income, race, education, employment status, and recent mental health condition playing differentiated roles in affecting depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: Regular physical activity reduces depressive symptoms among both men and women with mild to moderate depression, notably among women.

Keywords: Depressive symptoms; gender difference; ordered probability model; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States