Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower the risk of developing depression, according to a recent study published in Nature Mental Health. Conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Fudan University, the study examined data from nearly 290,000 individuals. The findings revealed that those who adhered to a healthy lifestyle had a 57% reduced likelihood of experiencing depression compared to those who didn’t prioritize their well-being.
The study found that there are seven lifestyle factors associated with a decreased risk of depression. These factors promote overall health and wellbeing.
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- Healthy diet
- Regular physical activity
- Healthy sleep
- Never smoking
- Low-to-moderate sedentary behaviour
- Frequent social connection
Out of all the factors, getting an adequate amount of sleep at night, which is between seven and nine hours, made the most significant impact. It reduced the risk of depression by 22%.
Maintaining regular social connections has been found to reduce the risk of depression by 18% and is particularly effective in preventing recurrent depressive disorder.
Drinking alcohol in moderation reduced the risk of depression by 11%, following a healthy diet reduced it by 6%, regular physical activity by 14%, never smoking by 20%, and maintaining low to moderate sedentary behavior by 13%.
The study also discovered that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can provide benefits regardless of an individual’s genetic risk for depression. This means that even if someone has a predisposition to depression based on their genes, they can still lower their risk by adopting healthy habits.
Researchers suggest that there are various factors linking a healthy lifestyle to a decreased risk of depression. For instance, getting adequate sleep contributes to better mood and cognitive function, while engaging in regular physical activity can reduce stress and enhance self-esteem. Additionally, social connections provide a sense of belonging and support, which acts as a protective factor against depression.
The findings of the study emphasize the significance of lifestyle interventions in preventing depression. If you’re worried about your risk of depression, there are several steps you can take to improve your way of life, including:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit smoking.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Spend time with friends and family.
If you are currently dealing with depression, it’s crucial to seek professional assistance. However, even if you’re receiving treatment, adopting a healthy lifestyle can play a significant role in alleviating your symptoms and reducing the likelihood of relapse.
Embarking on a journey to adopt healthier habits may seem daunting, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that even small changes can have a significant impact. To help you kickstart your journey, here are some simple yet effective tips:
- Set attainable goals. Avoid trying to change everything at once. Begin with one or two small changes that you believe you can maintain.
- Find a support system. Surround yourself with friends or family members who are also striving to make healthy changes. This will provide you with the motivation and encouragement you need to stay on track.
- When you achieve a goal, it’s important to reward yourself as a way of staying motivated. Give yourself a small treat or reward for each milestone you reach. This will help maintain your motivation and keep you on track towards achieving even more.
Making lasting lifestyle changes takes time. Don’t feel discouraged if you have setbacks along the way. Keep trying, and eventually, you will achieve your goals.
University of Cambridge. (2023, September 11). Healthy lifestyle can help prevent depression — and new research may explain why. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 12, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/09/230911141148.htm
Zhao, Y., Yang, L., Sahakian, B.J. et al. The brain structure, immunometabolic and genetic mechanisms underlying the association between lifestyle and depression. Nat. Mental Health (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44220-023-00120-1