The moderating effect of physical activity on the relationship between bullying and mental health among sexual and gender minority youth

Sally J. Kirklewski, Ryan J. Watson, Carolyn Lauckner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Sexual and gender minority youth frequently experience bullying, which often contributes to higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem. Given that physical activity (PA) can mitigate depressive symptoms and improve self-esteem, we examined the moderating effect of PA on the relationship between bullying and mental health among sexual and gender minority youth. Methods: Data from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer National Teen Survey (n = 9890) were analyzed. Hierarchical regression analyses examined the influence of history and frequency of being bullied, PA, and the interaction of these variables on depressive symptoms and self-esteem. Simple slopes analyses were used to probe significant interactions. Results: Results indicated the importance of accounting for bullying history when examining effects of PA on mental health. PA was negatively related to depression (t = –4.18, p < 0.001) and positively related to self-esteem (t = 12.11, p < 0.001). Bullying frequency was positively related to depression (t = 19.35, p < 0.001) and negatively related to self-esteem (t = –12.46, p < 0.001). There was a significant interaction between bullying frequency and PA for depression (t = 4.45, p < 0.001) and self-esteem (t = –4.69, p < 0.001). Post hoc analyses suggested that the positive effects of PA on mental health may be limited to those not bullied because it had a negligible effect on those who were bullied. Conclusion: Results suggest that sexual and gender minority youth exercise interventions aiming to improve mental health should first address bullying history; otherwise, their effectiveness may be limited to those who have been bullied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-115
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sport and Health Science
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Exercise
  • LGBTQ
  • Self-esteem
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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