July 14, 2024

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New study reveals 7 lifestyle factors that significantly reduce depression risk

New study reveals 7 lifestyle factors that significantly reduce depression risk

Nearly 4% of the population suffers from depression worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. That is estimated to be about 280 million people.

Although depression can be linked to our genetic makeup, a study published in Nature Mental Health found that lifestyle choices may play a bigger role than our DNA.

Professor Barbara Sahakian, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and co-author on the study, said in a press statement, “Our DNA – the genetic hand we’ve been dealt – can increase our risk of depression, (but) we’ve shown that a healthy lifestyle is potentially more important.”

During a nine-year period, researchers examined 287,282 individuals from the UK Biobank, 13,000 of whom experienced depression. Their studies emphasized seven lifestyle habits that, when practiced, reduced the risk of depression.

  • Healthy diet.
  • Minimal alcohol consumption.
  • Lack of smoking.
  • Good sleep.
  • Exercise.
  • Lower sedentary behavior.
  • Frequent social connection.

Participants in the study were grouped into three categories based on their lifestyle: Intermediate, favorable and unfavorable. “People in the intermediate group were 41% less likely to develop depression compared with those who were in the unfavorable group. Those in the favorable group were 57% less likely to develop depression,” per Medical News Today.

What causes depression?

The National Health Service said that there is no single cause for depression, but it can stem from many different factors that make someone vulnerable to it.

“Some of these lifestyle factors are things we have a degree (of) control over, so trying to find ways to improve them – making sure we have a good night’s sleep and getting out to see friends, for example – could make a real difference to people’s lives,” Sahakian said in the press statement.

“Our not-too-distant ancestors had lifestyles that involved regular physical activity, low sedentary behaviors, abundant social interaction, healthy diets and often low to moderate alcohol consumption,” Clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly told Medical News Today. “Even smoking is a relatively modern phenomenon. It makes sense that the activities that have allowed humans to survive over time would be necessary for our overall well-being. As such, it comes as no surprise when research continues to find that our deviation from healthy, living habits our ancestors embraced will work against our overall health.”

What lifestyle factor is most effective?

Out of all the factors researched in the study, getting a good night’s sleep had the greatest impact on depression.

Researchers determined what percentage of each factor had decreased the risk of depression when participants incorporated them into their lifestyles.

  • A healthy diet decreased the risk by 6%.
  • Minimal alcohol consumption decreased the risk by 11%.
  • Lack of smoking decreased the risk by 20%.
  • Good sleep decreased the risk by 22%.
  • Exercise decreased the risk by 14%.
  • Lower sedentary behavior decreased the risk by 13%.
  • Frequent social connections decreased the risk by 18%.

Dr Christelle Langley, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, 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. It’s good for our brain health and cognition, but also indirectly by promoting a healthier immune system and better metabolism,” per the press statement.