Relationships between psychosocial well-being and leisure time physical activity among 160.000 young Finnish men: a cross-sectional study during 2015–2021

Kaija Appelqvist-Schmidlechner, Risto Heikkinen, Tommi Vasankari, Toni Virtanen, Kai Pihlainen, Tuomas Honkanen, Heikki Kyröläinen, Jani P. Vaara

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    Abstract

    Evidence on the relationship between psychosocial well-being and physical activity (PA) is insufficient, especially in young adults between 18 and 29 years. Identifying protective factors for psychosocial well-being as well as factors that may promote PA behaviour in this specific age group is crucial. The aim of the present study was to explore the association between self-reported leisure time physical activity (LTPA) and a number of measures of psychosocial well-being in a large sample of Finnish young men. The sample used for this study is based on registers of the Finnish Defence Forces and consist of questionnaire-based data collected from 159,776 young healthy men (18–29 years, mean age 19 years) who started their military service during the period from 2015 to 2021. Sum scores were calculated for self-esteem and prosocial behaviour. Physical activity, number of friends and the relationship with the parents were each measured with a single question. Unadjusted and adjusted (education, financial situation of the family, family structure) logistic regression models were calculated. A multinominal logistic regression analysis showed that a higher level of LTPA was associated with a higher level of both prosocial behaviour (OR 6.12, 95% CI 5.88–6.36) and self-esteem (OR 4.41 95% CI 4.28–4.54). Further, LTPA had a positive relationship with good social relations, both with peers and parents. The odds ratio for participation in any LTPA weekly was higher (OR 2.74; CI 2.27–3.20) among those who had a close and trustworthy relationship with their parents compared to those men with more challenging relationships with their parents (OR 1.77; CI 1.46–2.14). An inactive lifestyle (PA less than once a week) seemed to be most common among men with no friends. About one third (31%) of men with no friends reported to engage in LTPA less than once a week, while only 10% of men with very many good friends reported to engage in similarly inactive LTPA behaviour. LTPA seems to be positively associated with self-esteem, prosocial behaviour and good social relations among young adult men. Actions aimed at promoting LTPA may have a positive impact on psychosocial well-being among young men, or vice versa. The relationship between PA and psychosocial well-being is complex and interrelated.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number26
    JournalARCHIVES OF PUBLIC HEALTH
    Volume81
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Keywords

    • Leisure time physical activity
    • Men’s health
    • Physical activity
    • Prosocial behaviour
    • Psychosocial well-being
    • Self-esteem
    • Social relations
    • Well-being

    Publication forum classification

    • Publication forum level 1

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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