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Levels of activity are often affected in psychiatric disorders and can be core symptoms of illness. Advances in technology now allow the accurate assessment of activity levels but it remains unclear whether alterations in activity arise from shared risk factors for developing psychiatric disorders, such as genetics, or are better explained as consequences of the disorders and their associated factors. We aimed to examine objectively-measured physical activity in individuals with psychiatric disorders, and assess the role of genetic liability for psychiatric disorders on physical activity. Accelerometer data were available on 95,529 UK Biobank participants, including measures of overall mean activity and minutes per day of moderate activity, walking, sedentary activity, and sleep. Linear regressions measured associations between psychiatric diagnosis and activity levels, and polygenic risk scores (PRS) for psychiatric disorders and activity levels. Genetic correlations were calculated between psychiatric disorders and different types of activity. Having a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or autism spectrum disorders (ASD) was associated with reduced overall activity compared to unaffected controls. In individuals without a psychiatric disorder, reduced overall activity levels were associated with PRS for schizophrenia, depression, and ASD. ADHD PRS was associated with increased overall activity. Genetic correlations were consistent with PRS findings. Variation in physical activity is an important feature across psychiatric disorders. Whilst levels of activity are associated with genetic liability to psychiatric disorders to a very limited extent, the substantial differences in activity levels in those with psychiatric disorders most likely arise as a consequences of disorder-related factors.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date