Being physically fit in the first 18 years of life could cut down the risk of suicidal behavior later in life, a new study from the University of Gothenberg claims.
This study, conducted by a team of researchers from the university, took into account over 1 million Swedish men, and presented a new extensive report which demonstrates how physical fitness could affect the mental health too.
A report from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare has shed light on a serious matter-the number of suicide attempts, especially in 19-23 year olds has increased steeply from 115 every year to a whopping 460 per year, just within 1995-2010.
The report also revealed how the number of suicide attempts with the 10-45 age group increased considerably, and how youngsters having minimal physical activity attempted to commit suicide.
"Being in poor physical shape at 18 years of age, measured as the test results on an exercise bike during their medical exam for compulsory military service, can be linked to a risk of suicidal behavior as an adult that is 1.8 times greater," a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, Margda Waern, explained.
"The teenage years are a critical period in terms of brain development since this is when social and emotional faculties are established. Therefore, it was important to do a larger study on the importance of physical fitness in terms of suicidal behavior in this age group," Maria Åberg, who led the study together with Waern, added.
The study, which took into account all Swedish men born between 1950-1987, compared the results obtained from physical tests to the national registers of disease and death.
The researchers also took into account the hereditary factors and home environment to arrive at a precise conclusion.
Physical activity has been linked to better mental health in many previous studies, but this study in particular has shed light on how lesser physical activity could affect the mental health of the individual, increasing his risk of demonstrating suicidal behavior.
"One theory is that the brain becomes more resistant to different types of stress if you are physically active," Maria explained.
The researchers emphasize on the need of encouraging physical activity and exercise among children and teens as a preventive approach.
The study is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.