Suicide is the leading cause of death among Korean adolescents. This study investigates the cross-sectional relations of physical activity with suicidal ideation and attempts in adolescents, simultaneously considering previously reported risk factors of suicide such as depression, stress, and body image.
This study used the 2007 Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey (KYRBWS). Four hundred middle schools and 400 high schools in Korea were monitored, and 74,698 students completed the questionnaire. Logistic regression analysis was conducted to investigate the relationship between physical activity and suicidal ideation and attempts, progressively adjusting for body image, depression and stress.
After controlling for body image, stress, and depression, the significant relationship between physical activity and suicidal ideation disappeared, and the only remaining relationship was a positive relationship between frequent vigorous physical activity and suicide attempts. No sex differences were found after adjusting for all the variables.
Unlike the general expectation that physical activity protects adolescents from suicidal behaviors, the results from this study suggest that physical activity does not have protective effect. Korean adolescents who perform frequent vigorous physical activities are more likely to attempt suicide.