Public Release: 

Physical activity, sadness, and suicidality in bullied US adolescents


Washington D.C., September 17, 2015 - A study to be published in the October 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that exercise for 4 or more days per week is associated with an approximate 23% reduction in both suicidal ideation and attempt in bullied adolescents in the U.S.

Across the U.S., nearly 20% of students report being bullied on school property. Bullying is associated with academic struggle, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and self-harm. Exercise has been widely reported to have robust positive effects on mental health including reduction in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Using data from a nationally representative sample of youth who participated in the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (CDC), a group of researchers led by Dr. Jeremy Sibold of the University of Vermont, examined the relationship between exercise frequency, sadness, and suicidal ideation and attempt in 13,583 U.S. adolescents in grades 9-12. The authors hypothesized that exercise frequency would be inversely related to sadness and suicidality and that these benefits would extend to bullying victims.

Overall, 30% of students studied reported sadness for 2 or more weeks in the previous year; 22.2% and 8.2% reported suicidal ideation and suicidal attempt in the same time period. Bullied students were twice as likely to report sadness, and three times as likely to report suicidal ideation or attempt when compared to peers who were not bullied. Exercise on 4 or more days per week was associated with significant reductions in sadness, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempt in all students. In particular, the data showed a startling 23% reduction in both suicidal ideation and suicidal attempt in bullied students who exercised 4 or more days per week.

Based on these findings, the authors concluded that exercise may represent a safe, economical, and potentially highly effective option in the response to bullying in schools. Bullying is a severe and growing public health burden with consequences reported across the life span. More research is necessary to further define the mechanisms behind these findings as well as the role that exercise can play in reducing the often severe mental health consequences for victims. Further, the paper raises the possibility of exercise programs as a public health approach to reduce suicidal behavior in all adolescents. This is particularly important consideration due to the fact that many high schools in our country have little or no exercise programs for non-varsity athletes.


The article "Physical Activity, Sadness, and Suicidality in Bullied US Adolescents" by Jeremy Sibold, Erika Edwards, Dianna Murray-Close, and James J. Hudziak ( appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 54, Issue 10 (October 2015), published by Elsevier.

Notes for editors

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Mary Billingsley at +1 202 587 9672 or Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Dr. Jeremy Sibold at or +1 802 656 0222.

All articles published in JAACAP are embargoed until the day they are published as in press corrected proofs online at Articles cannot be publicized as in press accepted manuscripts. Contents of the publication should not be released to or by the media or government agencies prior to the embargo date.


Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

About Elsevier

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