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Distinguishing between positive and negative affect: A new approach to understanding the antidepressant effect of physical activity

Distinguishing between positive and negative affect: A new approach to understanding the antidepressant effect of physical activity
Distinguishing between positive and negative affect: A new approach to understanding the antidepressant effect of physical activity
Objectives: physical activity has been found to alleviate depression, but little is known about the process or mechanisms of change. A small number of potential mediators are repeatedly postulated (e.g. increased self-efficacy), but few studies have examined explanations or attempted to identify other theoretical frameworks that may further understanding. Drawing on the tripartite model of anxiety and depression (Clark & Watson, 1991), we suggest a novel explanation and propose that it may be useful to distinguish between the independent mood dimensions of depression, positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA), as potential mediators. Physical activity may ‘work’ by both decreasing NA and by increasing PA – however, an increase in PA may potentially be more important. Physical activity is more strongly associated with PA than NA, and longitudinal research we conducted found larger effects for improvement in PA than NA in the early stages of increased activity among depressed individuals. Physical activity may therefore particularly tackle the low PA, anhedonia-related symptom of depression. The aim of this study was to use statistical tests of mediation to assess whether PA, NA and previously suggested potential mediators – coping self-efficacy, physical activity self-efficacy and exercise-induced feelings – cross-sectionally mediated the physical activity-depression relationship and the relative importance of each potential mediator.

Design: this was a cross-sectional, one-off postal questionnaire with individuals currently experiencing depression or low mood. A model in which all the potential mediators were specified to be direct mediators of the physical activity and depression relationship was assessed in a multiple mediation analysis, controlling for covariates.

Methods: participants (N = 164) self-selected to take part based on their subjective self-evaluation of current negative mood. Participants completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II and measures of physical activity, the potential mediators and the covariates.

Results: increased physical activity was associated with lower levels of depression. In a product of coefficients with bootstrapping multiple mediation analysis, increased PA and decreased NA were found to be the only significant direct individual mediators and statistical comparisons suggested an equal mediating role. However, post-hoc analyses suggested that increased physical activity self-efficacy may indirectly mediate through improvement in PA but not NA.

Conclusions: physical activity self-efficacy may indirectly mediate specifically through improvement in PA but not NA. While PA was not found to be a more important mediator than NA, the findings suggest that it may still be theoretically beneficial to distinguish between these dimensions of depression in understanding the process of change. Implications for future research will be discussed. Although the findings require replication, interventions or physical activity counselling with depressed individuals that target self-efficacy for physical activity may increase the likelihood of PA responses, which in turn, may improve depression outcomes
physical activity, exercise, depression, mediators, psychological mechanisms, positive affect, negative affect, self-efficacy
White, Karen
1bac9d88-da29-4a3e-9fd2-e469f129f963
Kendrick, Tony
c697a72c-c698-469d-8ac2-f00df40583e5
Yardley, Lucy
64be42c4-511d-484d-abaa-f8813452a22e
Taylor, A.H.
f7d75504-d33e-4697-a920-fc2c901d6b0c
White, Karen
1bac9d88-da29-4a3e-9fd2-e469f129f963
Kendrick, Tony
c697a72c-c698-469d-8ac2-f00df40583e5
Yardley, Lucy
64be42c4-511d-484d-abaa-f8813452a22e
Taylor, A.H.
f7d75504-d33e-4697-a920-fc2c901d6b0c

White, Karen, Kendrick, Tony and Yardley, Lucy (2008) Distinguishing between positive and negative affect: A new approach to understanding the antidepressant effect of physical activity. Taylor, A.H. (ed.) British Psychological Society Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference: Mental Health and Physical Activity: Translational Perspectives, London, United Kingdom. 10 - 12 Dec 2008.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Abstract

Objectives: physical activity has been found to alleviate depression, but little is known about the process or mechanisms of change. A small number of potential mediators are repeatedly postulated (e.g. increased self-efficacy), but few studies have examined explanations or attempted to identify other theoretical frameworks that may further understanding. Drawing on the tripartite model of anxiety and depression (Clark & Watson, 1991), we suggest a novel explanation and propose that it may be useful to distinguish between the independent mood dimensions of depression, positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA), as potential mediators. Physical activity may ‘work’ by both decreasing NA and by increasing PA – however, an increase in PA may potentially be more important. Physical activity is more strongly associated with PA than NA, and longitudinal research we conducted found larger effects for improvement in PA than NA in the early stages of increased activity among depressed individuals. Physical activity may therefore particularly tackle the low PA, anhedonia-related symptom of depression. The aim of this study was to use statistical tests of mediation to assess whether PA, NA and previously suggested potential mediators – coping self-efficacy, physical activity self-efficacy and exercise-induced feelings – cross-sectionally mediated the physical activity-depression relationship and the relative importance of each potential mediator.

Design: this was a cross-sectional, one-off postal questionnaire with individuals currently experiencing depression or low mood. A model in which all the potential mediators were specified to be direct mediators of the physical activity and depression relationship was assessed in a multiple mediation analysis, controlling for covariates.

Methods: participants (N = 164) self-selected to take part based on their subjective self-evaluation of current negative mood. Participants completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II and measures of physical activity, the potential mediators and the covariates.

Results: increased physical activity was associated with lower levels of depression. In a product of coefficients with bootstrapping multiple mediation analysis, increased PA and decreased NA were found to be the only significant direct individual mediators and statistical comparisons suggested an equal mediating role. However, post-hoc analyses suggested that increased physical activity self-efficacy may indirectly mediate through improvement in PA but not NA.

Conclusions: physical activity self-efficacy may indirectly mediate specifically through improvement in PA but not NA. While PA was not found to be a more important mediator than NA, the findings suggest that it may still be theoretically beneficial to distinguish between these dimensions of depression in understanding the process of change. Implications for future research will be discussed. Although the findings require replication, interventions or physical activity counselling with depressed individuals that target self-efficacy for physical activity may increase the likelihood of PA responses, which in turn, may improve depression outcomes

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More information

Published date: December 2008
Venue - Dates: British Psychological Society Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference: Mental Health and Physical Activity: Translational Perspectives, London, United Kingdom, 2008-12-10 - 2008-12-12
Keywords: physical activity, exercise, depression, mediators, psychological mechanisms, positive affect, negative affect, self-efficacy
Organisations: Faculty of Medicine, Psychology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 384527
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/384527
PURE UUID: 57e8fcff-8c94-4435-a296-078a46eb8270
ORCID for Karen White: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-8631-6465
ORCID for Tony Kendrick: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1618-9381
ORCID for Lucy Yardley: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3853-883X

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Date deposited: 11 Jan 2016 09:34
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 17:02

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Contributors

Author: Karen White ORCID iD
Author: Tony Kendrick ORCID iD
Author: Lucy Yardley ORCID iD
Editor: A.H. Taylor

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