The British Journal of Psychiatry
Cardiovascular fitness in males at age 18 and risk of serious depression in adulthood: Swedish prospective population-based study
Maria A. I. Åberg, Margda Waern, Jenny Nyberg, Nancy L. Pedersen, Ylva Bergh, N. David Åberg, Michael Nilsson, H. Georg Kuhn, Kjell Torén
  • Declaration of interest




Studies suggest a role for cardiovascular fitness in the prevention of affective disorders.


To determine whether cardiovascular fitness at age 18 is associated with future risk of serious affective illness.


Population-based Swedish cohort study of male conscripts (n = 1 117 292) born in 1950–1987 with no history of mental illness who were followed for 3–40 years. Data on cardiovascular fitness at conscription were linked with national hospital registers to calculate future risk of depression (requiring in-patient care) and bipolar disorder.


In fully adjusted models low cardiovascular fitness was associated with increased risk for serious depression (hazard ratios (HR) = 1.96, 95%, CI 1.71–2.23). No such association could be shown for bipolar disorder (HR = 1.11, 95% CI 0.84–1.47).


Lower cardiovascular fitness at age 18 was associated with increased risk of serious depression in adulthood. These results strengthen the theory of a cardiovascular contribution to the aetiology of depression.