Vigorous physical activity, mental health, perceived stress, and socializing among college students

Nicole A. Vankim, Toben F. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: To examine cross-sectional associations between vigorous physical activity, mental health, perceived stress, and socializing among 4-year college students. Design: A national cross-sectional sample of 4-year colleges in the United States. Setting: Ninety-four 4-year colleges in the United States. Subjects: A total of 14,804 undergraduate students. Measures: Self-report vigorous physical activity, perceived stress (measured using the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale), mental health (measured using the SF-36), and socializing (assessed using self-report number of friends and hours spent socializing). Analysis: Logistic regression models accounting for clustering within schools were estimated to examine the association between vigorous physical activity, mental health, perceived stress, and socializing. Adjusted models included high school vigorous physical activity and sociodemographic characteristics. Results: Students who met vigorous physical activity recommendations were less likely to report poor mental health (adjusted odds ratio [OR]:.79; 95% confidence interval [CI]:.69,.90) and perceived stress (adjusted OR:.75; 95% CI:.67,.83) than students who did not meet recommendations. In addition, socializing partially mediated the relationship between vigorous physical activity, mental health, and perceived stress; however, race and sex did not moderate the relationship. Conclusion: Interventions aiming to improve mental well-being of college students should also consider promoting physical activity. At least some of the positive benefits of physical activity may arise from social interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Keywords

  • College students
  • Mental health
  • Physical activity
  • Prevention research
  • Socializing

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