Mental Health of Working Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Does Physical Activity Level Matter?

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The purpose of this study is to investigate the associations between physical activity levels and the psychological outcomes of depression and anxiety. In 2022, Hong Kong was still exercising strict measures to control the spread of COVID-19. In this connection, major events and almost all large-scale sports events were suspended. Most recreational facilities were closed and repurposed as vaccination venues. As a result, a reduction in physical activity was expected. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 109 working adults in Hong Kong. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form was adopted as it continues to be the most widely used scale to measure physical activity. Almost a quarter of respondents exercised regularly. On average, respondents engaged in less than an hour’s physical activity per week. Findings showed that even low to moderate levels of physical activity were positively associated with perceived self-esteem and perceived mental well-being. More specifically, self-esteem and perceived mental well-being were negatively associated with depression and anxiety. A full mediation effect between engagement in low levels of physical activity and anxiety was found. Light exercises may ultimately lead to lower anxiety via an indirect effect, with perceived mental well-being acting as a mediator. There was no direct relationship between low levels of physical activity and anxiety. In a similar vein, moderate levels of physical activity may lead to amelioration of symptoms related to depression and anxiety through indirect effects, with self-esteem as a mediator. Apart from engagement in low levels of physical activity, moderate levels of physical activity, such as swimming, jogging, and dancing, which have associations with self-esteem and mental health, could also be considered for attention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2961
Pages (from-to)2961
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • level of physical activity
  • perceived mental well-being
  • self-esteem
  • working adults
  • Pandemics
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise/psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • COVID-19
  • Adult
  • Anxiety/psychology
  • Depression/psychology


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