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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Dec;39(12):2248-57.

Psychobiology and behavioral strategies. Physical activity, sport participation, and suicidal behavior: U.S. high school students.

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  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, Obesity, Atlanta, GA 30341-3724, USA.



To evaluate the associations of physical activity and sports team participation with suicidal behavior among U.S. high school students.


Data were from the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (N = 10,530 respondents). Exposure variables included physical activity (inactive, insufficient, moderately intensive, regular vigorously intensive, and frequent vigorously intensive) and sports team participation. Outcome variables were suicide ideation (seriously considering and/or planning suicide) and suicide attempts. Hierarchical logistic regressions were run, controlling for age, race, smoking, alcohol use, drug use, geographic region, unhealthy weight-control practices, and body mass index/weight perceptions.


Compared with inactive students or sports team nonparticipants, the odds of suicide ideation were lower among boys reporting frequent vigorous-intensity physical activity (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.48; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.29, 0.79) and sports team participation, respectively (AOR = 0.65; 95% CI = 0.48, 0.86). The odds of suicide attempts were also lower among frequently vigorously active boys (AOR = 0.44; 95% CI = 0.21, 0.96) and sports team participants (AOR = 0.61; 95% CI = 0.40, 0.93). The odds of suicide attempts were lower for regular vigorously active girls compared with inactive girls (AOR = 0.67; 95% CI = 0.45, 0.99) and sports team participants compared with nonparticipants (AOR = 0.73; 95% CI = 0.57, 0.94). Associations with one exposure variable generally weakened when adjustment was made for the other exposure variable, or for feeling sad and hopeless.


The association of physical activity and sports team participation with suicide ideation and suicide attempts varied by sex. Further research is needed to clarify these different associations.

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