Study Finds More Physical Activity and Less TV Lowers Depression Risk in Women

A new study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that women were at more risk for depression if they were less physically active and/or watched more TV.


It’s a pretty commonly accepted theory that physical activity has benefits in the mind and thus this isn’t a big surprise. Especially when the findings found that walking briskly was one of the activities that lowered the risk the most. Such exercise often releases endorphins in the blood that make the person happier, not sadder. I’m sure you’ve all heard of runner’s high where the brain fills with a sort of euphoria. So their findings of a 20% lower risk for those that exercised intensely for 90+ minutes per day really does make sense.

The TV connection is a bit vague. 13% of those that watched more than 3 hours of TV were more likely to be depressed, but why that is exactly is elusive. Michel Lucas, who authored the study at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, speculates that part of the reason could be that women don’t spend the time exercising instead of sitting on the couch watching the tube. Now that is probably a part of it, but I submit another theory. And I’m not a psychiatrist, but I know from my own experiences that TV in itself can be depressing. The programs often try to portray perfect people in perfect worlds. Even when they have tribulations, they are so blown out of proportions that it’s not even recognizable in our lives. Ever notice that very few people have to deal with money problems and if they do, they always have someone to fix it. You never saw those people on Full House getting an eviction notice. When their uncle lost his job, they were there to pick him up and dust him off and tell him it’s going to be alright. They didn’t show him having to move out on the street, begging for change. Living up to the expectations that are seen on TV, especially for women who are more susceptible to trends and such can be quite depressing. It’s like the recent Facebook thing, where other people’s lives are often embellished and thus sound better than they are to those not so social oriented, causing jealousy and sadness.

The research took 50,000 questionnaires from the U.S. Nurse’s Health Study from 1992 to 2000 about women whose age averaged 63-64. The exercise portion asked had a lot more data because the question had been required year after year about what kind of activities they participated in, while the TV watching habits question was only asked in 1992. By 1996, those not found to be depressed were tabulated to reach the results, which showed 6500 new cases in the next decade from those studied.

The research really doesn’t break new ground, but does solidify the idea that more physical activity, done with more intensity, is a factor in lowering the risk for depression.