Embodiment theories posit symptoms of psychopathology, such as depression, can be mirrored in physical behaviors. Gait, or an individual’s walking style, is an aspect of embodiment that has received much attention. Studies (primarily consisting of older, inpatient samples) have found that depressed patients demonstrate slower gait velocity compared to healthy controls. However, no study to date has examined relations between gait and depression severity or whether there is a particular affective symptom (i.e.: negative or positive affect) that more strongly accounts for this difference. Further, a majority of studies have not tested younger samples, where psychomotor changes may be a less relevant diagnostic feature of depression, utilizing motion capture systems. The current study addressed this gap by investigating the relation between depressive symptoms severity, positive and negative affect, and three gait parameters: velocity, stride length, and step duration. 90 participants (Mage = 20.85 years) completed self-report questionnaires of symptoms followed by a 10-minute walking task in the laboratory. Gait parameters were attained using the Vicon recording system (Vicon Motion Systems, Inc., UK). Contrary to prior investigations, multivariate multiple regressions demonstrated no significant associations between any of the gait parameters and psychological symptoms (ps > .05). These findings suggest a less robust link between depressive status and gait parameters in a young adult sample than has been seen in older ones and may demonstrate a developmental difference in depressive presentation. The discrepant findings may also be explained by advancing our investigation to utilize three-dimensional motion capture technology to assess for depressive symptom severity rather than using a categorical approach. Further replication is warranted to examine whether depressive symptomology is embodied via gait differences when assessed dimensionally and in younger samples.
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Kumar, Divya, "Walking on the Bright Side: Relations between Depression, Affect, and Gait" (2020). Psychology Theses and Dissertations. 22.
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