The relationship between motor activity and depressed mood in a nonhospitalized clinic sample

Thomas John Barkley, Fordham University


The relationship between psychomotor activity and depressed mood has not been adequately documented in outpatient samples. Previous research has used subjective measures, omitted relevant variables, or has been limited by confounding factors. It was hypothesized that depressed mood would be negatively related to psychomotor activity in an unmedicated sample when the variables of anxiety, age, sex, and obesity were statistically controlled, and that anxiety would be positively related to psychomotor activity. The stability of psychomotor activity over a two week period was also examined. Research participants were 73 college students between the ages of 18 and 49 seeking counseling at a college counseling center. The 20 males and 53 females completed the Inventory to Diagnose Depression, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Inventory, and a structured interview. Each subject then wore a step counter attached to their waist for fourteen consecutive days and nights, recording the number of steps tallied each morning upon rising, and each evening when getting into bed. A regression analysis found that depression was significantly negatively related to daytime and to 24-hour activity, but not to nighttime activity. Anxiety was not related to daytime or 24-hour activity, but results suggested that state anxiety may be related to nighttime activity. Age was significantly negatively related to daytime and 24-hour activity, but not nighttime activity. Females tended to exhibit less activity than males. Obesity was not related to activity in this sample. Daytime and 24-hour activity levels were not significantly different from week one to week two. The results were taken to indicate that psychomotor retardation secondary to depressed mood is present in outpatient samples, exists in 'minor' depressions, and is easily measurable by step counters. Some implications of this research are that psychomotor retardation may be underutilized in the diagnosis of major depression and might be used in the diagnosis of Dysthymia, and that step counters may be useful for the assessment, monitoring, and treatment of affective disorders.

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Recommended Citation

Barkley, Thomas John, "The relationship between motor activity and depressed mood in a nonhospitalized clinic sample" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9118833.