College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-9-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jocelyn Carter, PhD

Second Advisor

Susan McMahon, PhD


This study aims to identify how physical activity (PA) coping interacts with environmental risks and resources to predict youth mental health. Academic stress poses a threat to adolescent wellbeing, and has been linked to adverse mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety. Previous research has established that engaging in PA protects adolescents from depression and anxiety. However, very little is known about how PA may function as a coping mechanism, specifically (i.e. PA coping). PA is influenced by risks (e.g. crime, low built environment quality, etc.) and resources (e.g. accessibility, exercise equipment, etc.) in one’s environment, and accordingly, the present study accounted for such factors in the home, school, and neighborhood. Adolescents (NT1 = 373, NT2 = 170) were surveyed at the beginning and end of a school year. Linear regressions and a series of moderation analyses were used to analyze data. Results indicated that PA coping significantly buffered the relationship between academic stress and depression, but only in the context of high levels of risks for PA in one’s school setting (b = -0.07, p = .029). These findings highlight how systems-level risks interact with individual-level coping techniques to predict depression among diverse adolescents living in urban settings. Research, practice, and policy implications are discussed.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons