Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

First Advisor's Name

Eric Wagner

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

James Jaccard

Third Advisor's Name

Mark Macgowan

Fourth Advisor's Name

Mario De La Rosa


alcohol, physical activity, adolescent, exercise, depression

Date of Defense



The purpose of this research was to explore the influence of physical activity on depressive symptomatology and adolescent alcohol use during an underexplored transition from middle school to high school. The study initiative is supported by the fact that research has shown a unique and simultaneous decrease in physical activity (CDC, 2010), increase in depressive symptomatology (SAMHSA, 2010) and increase in alcohol use (USDHHS, 2011) during middle adolescence. A risk and resilience framework was used in efforts to conceptualize how these variables may be inter-related.

Data from waves I and II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health, Bearman et al., 1997; Udry, 1997) was used (N = 2,054; aged 13-15 years). The sample was ethnically and racially diverse (58.2% White, 24% African American, 11.7% Hispanic, and 6.1% other). Structural equation models were developed to test the potential influence physical activity has on adolescent alcohol use (e.g., frequency of alcohol use and binge alcohol use) and whether any of the relationship was mediated by depressive symptomatology or varied as a function of gender.

Results demonstrated that there was a significant influence of structured physical activity (e.g., sports) on adolescent alcohol use. However, contrary to the proposed hypothesis, engaging in structured physical activity appeared to contribute to greater binge drinking among adolescents. Instead of demonstrating a protective feature, the findings suggest that engaging in structured physical activity places adolescents at risk for binge drinking. Furthermore, no significant relationships, positive or negative, were found for the influence of physical activity (structured and unstructured) on frequency of alcohol use. The findings regarding mediation revealed binge drinking as a mediator between physical activity (structured) and depressive symptomatology. These findings provide support for research, practice, and policy initiatives focused on developing a more comprehensive understanding of alcohol use drinking behaviors, physical activity involvement, and depressive symptomatology among adolescents, which this study demonstrates are all associated with one another. Results represent an initial step toward evaluating these relationships at a much younger age.





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