High fitness reduces risk of depression and sick leave in certain groups

This recent study from The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences offers significant insights into the relationship between fitness levels and mental health outcomes, specifically regarding depression and related sick leave.

The picture shows a bicycle test at GIH

Benefits of physical fitness differ

By examining a large dataset spanning from 1982 to 2020, which included 330,247 individuals from the Swedish working population, the researchers could observe long-term effects of fitness on depression. The findings indicate that higher fitness levels are associated with a reduced risk of depression and its consequent impact on work life, such as sick leave and potentially reduced sickness benefits due to depression.

The study is particularly noteworthy for highlighting that the benefits of higher fitness levels are not uniformly distributed across all demographics. Instead, these benefits were most pronounced in men, younger individuals, and those with lower educational attainment. These findings suggest that interventions aimed at increasing fitness could be tailored more effectively by focusing on these groups to maximize mental health benefits.

Impact also on mental well-being

Furthermore, the distinction made by the researchers about the study's observational nature is crucial. While they have identified associations between fitness and reduced depression risks, establishing a definitive cause-and-effect relationship requires further investigation. This point is essential for interpreting the study's implications. While promoting fitness may help reduce depression risk, other factors, such as genetics, also play a significant role and should be considered in future research.

Overall, this study underscores the importance of physical fitness for physical health and its potential impact on mental well-being. This could influence public health policies and personal health practices, particularly in how they are applied to demographic groups that could benefit the most.

Read the press release Pdf, 253.8 kB, opens in new window.

The study is published in the scientific journal Preventive Medicine External link, opens in new window..

The study was collaboration with the HPI Health Profile Institute, AbbVie, BioArctic, and Monark Exercise.

The project is part of the E-PABS research center for physical activity and brain health at GIH.


  • Camilla Wiklund´s profilbildpostdoctoralCamilla Wiklundcamilla.wiklund@gih.se+46 8-120 53 897
  • Elin Ekblom Bak´s profilbildProfessor, Docent, Director of studies, Senior lecturerElin Ekblom Bakelin.ekblombak@gih.se+46 8-120 53 861

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Last modified:21 May 2024