Resume: Participating in an exercise program reduced suicidal thoughts and actions in patients with mental and physical health problems who previously had suicidal thoughts.
Source: University of Ottawa
A new study from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine found that patients with mental or physical illness were able to successfully adhere to exercise regimens despite prior thinking, resulting in fewer suicide attempts.
The findings cast doubt on the misconception that patients suffering from a mental or physical illness are not motivated to participate in an exercise regimen, which has comparable efficacy to antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy in treating depression. However, the effect on suicidal behavior was unclear.
“This misconception has led primary care providers to under-prescribe exercise, resulting in further deterioration of patients’ mental and physical health,” said Dr. Nicholas Fabiano, a psychiatrist and lead author of the study with medical student Arnav Gupta.
“The findings of this study ‘disprove’ this belief, as exercise was well tolerated by those with mental or physical illness. Therefore, health care providers should have no concerns about prescribing exercise to these patients.”
Under the supervision of Dr. Marco Solmi and Dr. Jess Feidorowicz of the Department of Psychiatry, Fabiano and Gupta evaluated 17 randomized control trials involving more than 1,000 participants to derive their findings.
About this exercise and news about mental health research
Author: Paul Logothetis
Source: University of Ottawa
Contact: Paul Logothetis – University of Ottawa
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original research: Open access.
“The Effect of Exercise on Suicidal Behavior: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials” by Nicholas Fabiano et al. Journal of Affective Disorders
The Effect of Exercise on Suicidal Behavior: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
While exercise can positively impact people with mental or other medical conditions, there is a lack of understanding of how it affects suicidal thoughts or risk.
We conducted a PRISMA 2020-compliant systematic review by searching MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, and PsycINFO from inception to June 21, 2022. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of exercise and suicidal ideation in subjects with mental or physical conditions were included. Random-effects meta-analysis was performed. The primary outcome was suicidal ideation. We assessed bias of studies using tool 2 for risk of bias.
We identified 17 RCTs with 1021 participants. Depression was the most commonly included condition (71%, k = 12). The mean follow-up was 10.0 weeks (SD = 5.2). Suicidal thoughts after the intervention (SMD = -1.09, CI -3.08–0.90, P= 0.20, k = 5) was not significantly different between exercise and control groups. Suicide attempts were significantly reduced in participants randomized to practice interventions compared to inactive controls (OR = 0.23, CI 0.09-0.67, P =0.04, k = 2). Fourteen studies (82%) were at high risk of bias.
This meta-analysis is limited by few, underpowered and heterogeneous studies.
Overall, our meta-analysis found no significant reduction in suicidal ideation or mortality between exercise and control groups. However, exercise significantly reduced suicide attempts. The results should be considered preliminary and more and larger studies assessing suicidality in RCT test exercises are needed.