Lifestyle factors and adolescent depressive symptomatology: Associations and effect sizes of diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour

Joshua Hayward, Felice N. Jacka, Helen Skouteris, Lynne Millar, Claudia Strugnell, Boyd A. Swinburn, Steven Allender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Depression affects many Australian adolescents. Research points to the potential of lifestyle improvement for the population-level prevention of mental disorders. However, most studies examine single relationships without considering the combined contribution of lifestyle factors to variance in depression. This study examined associations between adolescent diet, physical activity and screen time behaviours and depressive symptomatology. Methods: A cross-sectional sample of year 8 and 10 students was recruited from 23 participating schools in 18 Victorian communities. Students were recruited using opt-out consent, resulting in 3295 participants from 4680 registered school enrolments (Participation Rate: 70.4%). Participants completed a supervised self-report questionnaire comprising Moods and Feelings Questionnaire-Short Form, an assessment of physical activity and sedentary behaviours during and outside school, and weekly food intake. Surveyed covariates included hours of sleep per night, age, socio-economic status and measured anthropometry. A hierarchical regression stratified by gender was conducted, with dichotomised Moods and Feelings Questionnaire-Short Form score as the outcome, and screen time, physical activity and dietary patterns as predictors. Nested regression analyses were then conducted to ascertain the variance in Moods and Feelings Questionnaire-Short Form score attributable to each significant predictor from the initial regression. Results: Increased scores on an unhealthy dietary pattern (odds ratio = 1.18; 95% confidence interval = [1.07, 1.32]) and physical activity guideline attainment (0.91; [0.85, 0.97]) were associated with depressive symptomatology in males, while screen time guideline attainment (0.95; [0.91, 0.98]) was associated with depression in females. No association was observed between healthy diet pattern and Moods and Feelings Questionnaire-Short Form. Overall, effect sizes were generally small, and the regression model accounted for 5.22% of Moods and Feelings Questionnaire-Short Form variance. Conclusion: Gender-specific associations were observed between physical activity and both sedentary and dietary behaviours and depressive symptomatology among adolescents, although reverse causality cannot be refuted at this stage. Lifestyle behaviours may represent a modifiable target for the prevention of depressive symptomatology in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1064-1073
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescents
  • Depressive symptomatology
  • diet pattern
  • physical activity
  • screen time

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