Those who are physically active have been shown to reap numerous benefits in nearly every area of health. They are usually in better physical health than sedentary individuals. Active people also report feeling better about their bodies, and usually have fewer psychological problems than those who participate in little physical activity.
Additionally, being involved in a physical activity can be highly enjoyable and can serve to foster social relationships. Similar benefits can be found from being romantically involved with someone. Evidence suggests that people who are in a committed relationship are generally happier than those who are not.
But according to a new study conducted by Martin P. Davoren of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College of Cork in Ireland, sedentary people with multiple sexual partners are the happiest people. Davoren conducted his study to add to the scant literature on well-being and positive psychological health. Using the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), Davoren surveyed 2,332 college students and asked them about their school major, their drug and alcohol use, their living arrangements, romantic partners, and physical activity.
He found that nearly half of the students still lived with their parents and were in their first year of college. When he compared well-being between male and female respondents, he found very little differences based on the WEMWBS scores. Also, those who smoked or used drugs and alcohol did not report significant increases or decreases in well-being. However, when he looked at other factors, Davoren found that among men, the highest levels of well-being were reported by those with the least amount of physical activity. Further, for both men and women, well-being was higher among those with one or more romantic interests.
The WEMBWBS scores were not just average for these distinct groups of respondents; they were above average. Davoren said, “The findings suggest that students with a relatively adverse health and lifestyle profile have higher than average mental health and well-being.” Although these results are novel, Davoren strongly encourages they be considered with caution as they are the first of their kind. He also hopes future research into this topic will help explain these unpredictable findings.
Davoren, M.P., Fitzgerald, E., Shiely, F., Perry, I.J. (2013). Positive mental health and well-being among a third level student population. PLoS ONE 8(8): e74921. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074921
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