What physical activity contexts do adults with psychological distress prefer?

Asaduzzaman Khan, Wendy J. Brown, Nicola W. Burton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Physical activity can promote well-being and assist in the prevention and management of psychological symptoms. The aim of this study was to identify what physical activity contexts are preferred by adults with psychosocial difficulties. 

Design: Cross-sectional population based study. 

Methods: Data were from a mail survey of 7873 adults aged 42-67 years. Psychosocial difficulties were assessed using the Kessler6, and categorized as no distress (0-7) or distress (8-24). Respondents indicated the extent to which they disagreed or agreed with a preference for each of 14 activity contexts, and were categorized as disagree, no preference, or agree. Data were analyzed using (1) descriptive statistics and (2) multi-level multinomial logistic regression with adjustment for sociodemographic and health variables; adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals are reported. 

Results: Approximately 12% of respondents were categorized as psychologically distressed. Over 60% of distressed respondents disagreed with a preference for competitive activities; and agreed with a preference for activities that can be done close to home, involve little or no cost, can be done alone, are done outdoors, and that are not just about exercise. Distressed respondents had higher odds to prefer supervised activities (1.64; 1.32-2.03), activities done with people of the same sex (1.41; 1.12-1.78), and activities done at a fixed time with scheduled sessions (1.32; 1.08-1.62) than those without distress. 

Conclusions: Mid-aged adults with psychological distress have specific physical activity context preferences. These preferences could be incorporated into the planning and promotion of physical activity opportunities for people with psychosocial difficulties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-421
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


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