Introduction: The health benefits of physical activity have gained interest as an intervention tool for mental health. The primary aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to determine the effects of interventions with physical activity components on measures of anxiety, depression and stress in young people. Methods: A systematic search was carried out across nine electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, ERIC, British Education Index, Child Development and Adolescent Studies, CENTRAL, Embase, SportDiscus and Psychinfo). Inclusion criteria were studies that used physical activity components with anxiety, depression and stress outcomes in a target population aged 10–19 years. Intervention effects (mean differences) were calculated with a random-effects model. A risk of bias assessment was conducted. Results: A total of 13 studies depicting 11 RCT and 2 Cluster RCT's with 1928 participants were included. 11 studies were eligible for meta-analyses. The meta-analyses for anxiety demonstrated no difference between groups at follow-up (SMD 0.04; 95% CI -0.20, 0.28; I2 = 55%) or when measured as change from baseline (SMD -0.33; 95% CI -0.68, 0.03; I2 = 0%). Similarly, no difference in depression was demonstrated between groups at follow-up (SMD 0.09; 95% CI -0.20, 0.40; I2 = 72%) or when measured as change from baseline (SMD -0.11; 95% CI -0.29, 0.07; I2 = 0%). The meta-analyses showed no overall affect and included studies had high risk of bias and heterogeneity therefore results should be viewed tentatively. Conclusion: The ability of physical activity components within interventions to produce meaningful change in anxiety, depression and stress outcomes in adolescents remains unclear as the results of the meta-analyses showed no overall affect. Therefore more conclusive studies should be conducted in the future.
- Adolescent mental health