Exercise and Depression: Causal Sequence Using Cross-Lagged Panel Correlation Analysis
Scott, Virginia Anne
Andrews, David L
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This study sought to determine what kind of causal relationship, if any, exists between exercise and depression. A university student population (N = 178) was given the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory-II at two time points separated by approximately one month. Cross-lagged panel correlation was used to make causal inferences based on the strength of the temporal relationships. After meeting the assumptions of synchronicity and stationarity, there was no significant difference between the cross-lagged correlations (ZPF = -0.4599, p = 0.65). Thus, no single causal pathway was dominant. While equal cross-lagged correlations can indicate spuriousness, it can also signify reciprocal causation. Exercise was not clearly the cause of reductions in depression, but neither was depression clearly the cause of physical inactivity. More complex causal pathways, such as reciprocal causation, warrant further investigation.