Send to

Choose Destination
J Affect Disord. 2018 Jan 1;225:438-448. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.08.070. Epub 2017 Aug 24.

Physical activity and suicidal ideation: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Author information

KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Leuven, Belgium; KU Leuven - University of Leuven, University Psychiatric Centre, Leuven-Kortenberg, Belgium. Electronic address:
Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
Institute of Brain, Behaviour and Mental Health, University of Manchester, UK; NICM, School of Science and Health, University of Western Sydney, Australia.
School of Psychiatry, UNSW Sydney, Australia; Black Dog Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, Australia.
Unilasalle, Canoas, Brazil; Escola de Educação Física, Fisioterapia e Dança, Porto Alegre, Brazil; Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre, Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda; Butabika National Referral and Mental Health Hospital, Kampala, Uganda.
KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Leuven, Belgium.
Department of Clinical Medicine and Translational Psychiatry Research Group, Faculty of Medicine, Federal University of Ceará, Fortaleza, Brazil.
Physiotherapy Department, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Denmark Hill, London, UK; Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London, UK.



A potential approach to suicide prevention that has not been closely examined, but which holds promise in terms of widespread dissemination without major side-effects, is physical activity (PA). This systematic review and meta-analysis set out to: (a) explore associations between PA and suicidal ideation (SI) levels, and (b) investigate the effect of PA interventions on SI.


Major electronic databases were searched from inception up to 05/2017 to identify quantitative studies reporting an association between PA and SI. A quantitative correlates synthesis and random effects meta-analysis were conducted.


Fourteen of 21 studies in adults (67%) (n = 130,737), 7/14 (50%) in adolescents (n = 539,170) and 2/3 (67%) in older adults (n = 50,745) found a significant negative association between PA- and SI-levels. Pooled adjusted meta-analysis of 14 effect sizes over eight studies and 80,856 people found that those who were "active" versus those who were "inactive" were less likely to have SI (OR = 0.87, 95%CI = 0.76-0.98). Additionally, meeting PA guidelines conferred a significant protective effect against SI (OR = 0.91, 95%CI = 0.51-0.99, P = 0.03; N studies = 3, n people = 122,395), while not meeting guidelines was associated with increased SI (OR = 1.16, 95%CI = 1.09-1.24, P < 0.001; N = 4, n = 78,860). Data from the intervention studies (N = 3, n = 121) was mixed and limited.


Our findings are based mainly on cross-sectional studies, while the majority of studies did not include a rigorous physical activity assessment.


The current study suggests that higher PA levels are associated with lower SI. However, the associations observed need to be confirmed in prospective observational studies and controlled trials.


Mortality; Physical exercise; Suicide

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center