A recent study conducted in the United Kingdom revealed that individuals who maintain a range of healthy habits are significantly less likely to experience episodes of depression. By analyzing data from nearly 300,000 people in the UK Biobank database initiative, researchers identified seven healthy habits and discovered that maintaining at least five of them reduced the risk of depression by 57%. These habits include good sleep, regular physical activity, a healthy diet, engaging in hobbies, spending time with loved ones, maintaining strong social connections, and managing stress levels.
The study used Mendelian randomization, a technique that utilizes genetics to study behavior, to confirm a causal link between lifestyle and depression. Surprisingly, the researchers found that even individuals with genetic variants that make them more susceptible to depression experienced a reduction in their risk if they maintained a favorable lifestyle.
Barbara Sahakian, the study’s author and a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, expressed her surprise at the significant impact of a healthy lifestyle on the risk of depression. She stated that maintaining a favorable lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing depression by 57%, which is a substantial amount.
In addition to reducing the risk of depression, the study also found that a healthy lifestyle is associated with lower levels of markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, which is linked to depression. This suggests that healthy habits not only have a positive impact on mental health but also contribute to overall physical well-being.
While medication and therapy are essential for treating serious depression, this study highlights the importance of lifestyle factors in maintaining strong mental health. Depression is no longer seen as solely a chemical imbalance but rather a complex condition influenced by various habits and behaviors.
The study identified two key habits for reducing the risk of depression: adequate rest and regular exercise. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night reduced the risk of depression by about 22%. Sleep plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and immune system functioning. Strategies based on cognitive behavioral therapy can also be beneficial for individuals with insomnia or difficulty sleeping.
Regular physical activity has also been linked to improved mood and a reduced risk of depression. In fact, a meta-analysis found that exercise was more effective than medications in reducing symptoms of depression. While antidepressant medicines may provide faster relief, the effects of exercise are more durable over time.
In conclusion, maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes sufficient sleep, regular exercise, a balanced diet, engaging in hobbies, spending time with loved ones, nurturing social connections, and managing stress levels can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing depressive episodes. It is important to recognize the impact of these habits on mental health and prioritize them as part of overall well-being.
– Original study: Not provided
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