B3822 - Pubertal Timing Physical Activity and Depression A Prospective Cohort Study - 28/06/2021

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Carol Joinson | University of Bristol (UK)
Dr Jon Heron, Professor Abigail Fraser, Dana Tarif
Title of project: 
Pubertal Timing, Physical Activity and Depression – A Prospective Cohort Study
Proposal summary: 

There is growing global concern about the rise in mental health problems in young people.
Rates of depression are known to increase after puberty, with a robust finding that early puberty in girls is linked to increased depressive symptoms. These findings support the ‘early timing’ hypothesis’, which proposes that early maturing girls find puberty more challenging as they are not yet prepared to cope with the biological, psychological and social changes. However, the relationship between pubertal timing and depression is less clear in boys. Understanding the mechanisms that explain the increase in depression during the
critical period of adolescence is vital to developing effective preventative interventions.
Levels of physical activity during adolescence might play a role in contributing to young people’s risk of depressive symptoms. There is some evidence that higher levels of physical activity are associated with lower levels of depression. Participating in physical activity may provide protection from developing depressive symptoms, for example by increasing self-esteem and improving social support. In adolescent girls there is evidence for a decline in physical activity levels at onset of puberty, particularly in those who develop earlier. In contrast, later maturing boys may have an athletic disadvantage which might discourage involvement in physical activity.
The proposed project will use repeated data on age at onset of puberty, physical activity, and depressive symptoms/depression to examine the role of physical activity as a potential mechanism that could explain the link between pubertal timing and depression in boys and girls in adolescence and young adulthood.

Impact of research: 
The research findings have the potential to advance understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the link between pubertal timing and depression. If physical activity is a mediator of this relationship, there is the potential for the research findings to impact on the development of activity-based interventions in secondary schools to improve mental health and to improve identification of young people who are at risk of developing depression.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 23 June, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 23 June, 2021
Epidemiology, Mental health, Statistical methods, Puberty