Seven key healthy lifestyle habits really do help beat the blues, reveals new research.
And a good night’s sleep is the most important, slashing the risk by 22 percent.
An international team, including Cambridge University researchers, looked at a combination of factors, including lifestyle habits, genetics, brain structure and our immune and metabolic systems to identify the underlying mechanisms that might explain the link.
Around one in 20 adults experiences depression, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the condition poses a significant burden on public health worldwide.
But scientists say that the multiple factors that influence the onset of depression are complicated and include a mixture of biological and lifestyle factors.
To better understand the relationship between depression and lifestyle, the researchers turned to the UK Biobank, a database containing anonymized genetic, lifestyle and health information about its participants.
By examining data from almost 290,000 people – of whom 13,000 had depression – followed over a nine-year period, the team was able to identify seven healthy lifestyle factors linked with a lower risk of depression.
PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA GORN/UNSPLASH
These were moderate alcohol consumption, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, healthy sleep, never smoking, low-to-moderate sedentary behavior and frequent social connection.
Of all of the factors, having a good night’s sleep – between seven and nine hours a night – made the biggest difference, reducing the risk of depression, including single depressive episodes and treatment-resistant depression, by 22 percent.
Frequent social connection, which in general reduced the risk of depression by 18 percent, was the most protective against recurrent depressive disorder, according to the findings published in the journal Nature Mental Health.
Moderate alcohol consumption decreased the risk of depression by 11 percent, healthy diet by six percent, regular physical activity by 14 percent, never smoking by 20 percent, and low-to-moderate sedentary behavior by 13 percent.
Based on the number of healthy lifestyle factors a person stuck to, they were assigned to one of three groups: unfavorable, intermediate, and favorable lifestyle.
People in the intermediate group were around 41 percent less likely to develop depression compared to those in the unfavorable lifestyle group, while those in the favorable lifestyle group were 57 percent less likely.
Dr. Christelle Langley, also of Cambridge University, said: “We’re used to thinking of a healthy lifestyle as being important to our physical health, but it’s just as important for our mental health.
Professor Jianfeng Feng, of the University of Warwick and Fudan University in China, added: “We know that depression can start as early as in adolescence or young adulthood, so educating young people on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and its impact on mental health should begin in schools.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker