Many lifestyle factors, such as screen time, diet, and sleep, can strongly impact depression symptoms. A new study published in BMC Medicine has found a broad range of lifestyle factors and its effect on depression symptoms using the large UK Biobank lifestyle and mood dataset.
Studies have previously shown that sleep can play an essential role in reducing depressive symptoms, but this new study is one of the first to look at other lifestyle factors. The study included 85,000 people and found that lifestyle factors such as less screen time, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and physical activity can affect those with depression.
The international research team led by Western Sydney University concluded the study, citing a significant relationship between a healthy diet, physical activity, optimal sleep, and depressed mood. Screen time and tobacco smoking were also found to significantly affect depression.
Surprisingly, a higher frequency of alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced frequency of depressed mood in those who suffer from depression. Researchers believe this may be due to alcohol being used for self-medicating to help those with depression manage their mood.
Overall, the lifestyle factors that were protective of depressed mood in people with clinical depression were optimal sleep and lower screen time. A healthy diet was indicated to be protective of depressed mood in those only without depression.
“The results may inform public health policy by further highlighting the important relationship between people being encouraged and supported to engage in a range of health-promoting activities. In particular, maintaining optimal sleep and lessening screen time (which is often an issue in youth), while having adequate physical activity and good dietary quality, may reduce the symptoms of depression,” said lead co-author, Professor Jerome Sarris.
This study helps to highlight the many lifestyle factors that can affect people who suffer from depression. One treatment option for depression that is gaining attention is the use of personalized, combined lifestyle interventions. Many have found that these types of lifestyle changes can help to manage mood and promote physical wellness.
Caring for oneself is a key component in the battle against depression. Part of this care should include daily exercise, avoiding drugs and alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and having a social community. A social connection can often help with other lifestyle changes that may seem daunting to do on your own.
For example, go for a walk with a friend or exercise together, or even play some sports. This will make it easier to get healthy exercise without it seeming like a chore. Spending time with others can also be therapeutic as emotional connections are essential for well-being.
Like any chronic illness, it is important to track any changes in health, both mentally and physically,7 and get to know any triggers that may increase chances of symptoms. For those who suffer from depression, knowing some simple lifestyle changes could go a long way to helping lower depressive symptoms.