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Physical Activity, Sadness, and Suicidality in Bullied US Adolescents, Clinical Guidance

Physical Activity, Sadness, and Suicidality in Bullied US Adolescents, Clinical Guidance. Jeremy Sibold, EdD, ATC, Erika Edwards, PhD, Dianna Murray-Close, PhD , James J. Hudziak, MD, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Accepted: July 14, 2015; Published Online: July 17, 2015. Publication stage: In Press Corrected Proof. DOI:

  • Objective – The consequences of bullying are well described, yet little is known about protective factors that may diminish the negative sequelae. One possible factor, physical activity (PA), improves mental health in general and clinical populations. The purpose of this study is to examine relationships among PA, sadness, and suicidality in bullied US adolescents. We hypothesized that physically active students would be less likely to feel sad or to report suicidal ideation or attempts, including bullied students.
  • Method – Using the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (N = 13,583), regression models adjusted for age, sex, and race estimated the odds ratios among PA, sadness, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts, stratified by whether students were bullied.
  • Results – Overall, 30.0% of students reported sadness for 2 or more weeks, 22.2% reported suicidal ideation, and 8.2% reported suicide attempt in the previous 12 months. Bullied students were twice as likely to report feeling sad and 3 times as likely to report suicidal ideation or attempt. Students who reported exercising 4 to 5 days a week had lower adjusted odds of sadness, suicidal ideation, or suicide attempts than students who exercised 0 to 1 day a week (p ≤ .0001). After stratifying by bullying, similar but attenuated associations were observed. Overall, exercise for 4 or more days per week was associated with an approximate 23% reduction in suicidal ideation and attempt in bullied students.
  • Conclusion – PA is inversely related to sadness and suicidality in adolescents, highlighting the relationship between PA and mental health in children, and potentially implicating PA as a salient option in the response to bullying in schools.”

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