Lauren A. Rutter of the VA Boston Healthcare System recently led a study to determine the relationship between post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, health and exercise in a sampling of college students. “Depression is an episodic illness characterized by low mood and loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. Depression has also been consistently linked to a broad array of health conditions related to cardiovascular health,” said Rutter. She noted that individuals with depression often report engaging in little physical exercise, a behavior that is known to relieve symptoms of depression. Because of this link, Rutter’s team wanted to identify how physical exercise influenced depressive symptoms and PTSD.
The team enlisted 200 college students from an undergraduate psychology program and assessed them for levels of PTSD using the Traumatic Life Events Questionnaire (TLEQ), the PTSD Checklist. They relied on the Beck Depression Inventory II and the Health Risk Appraisal to measure levels of depression and overall health. The Cohen-Hoberman Inventory of Physical Symptoms was used to evaluate negative physical health conditions in the students and recorded how often they engaged in regular physical exercise. They assessed the type of trauma experienced by the students according to level of distress. They found that most of the reported trauma was the result of the death of a loved one, followed by witnessing or experiencing an assault or traumatic event such as domestic violence.
The researchers discovered that the participants with negative physical health reported the highest levels of PTSD and depression. Additionally, that group also engaged in less physical activity. The team believes social support, which can encourage healthy choices, may lead to increased exercise and in turn better physical and mental health. The researchers added, “People experiencing symptoms of PTSD and depression may also have difficulty maintaining relationships and thus have decreased social support, a factor that has been shown to be related to health.”
Rutter, L. A., Weatherill, R. P., Krill, S. C., Orazem, R., & Taft, C. T. (2011, March 28). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Depressive Symptoms, Exercise, and Health in College Students. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0021996
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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