7 lifestyle habits linked to reduced depression risk

7 lifestyle habits linked to reduced depression risk

Recent findings underscore the importance of a balanced lifestyle, including moderate drinking, a nutritious diet, consistent exercise, sufficient sleep, regular social interactions, while avoiding tobacco use and excessive inactivity, in mitigating depression risk.
The coolest part of this finding was: Despite genetic predispositions potentially heightening depression susceptibility, lifestyle choices may hold greater significance.
The study, featured in Nature Mental Health by a global team from institutions like the University of Cambridge and Fudan University, delved into various elements such as lifestyle habits, genetic factors, brain structure, and immunological and metabolic functions to unravel their connections with depression.
Globally, depression affects approximately 5% of adults, presenting a considerable challenge to public health. Its triggers are multifaceted, involving both biological and lifestyle elements. The investigation utilised the UK Biobank's extensive database, analysing nearly 290,000 participants over nine years, identifying seven lifestyle habits linked to reduced depression risk:

  • Moderate drinking
  • Nutritious eating
  • Regular exercise
  • Adequate sleep
  • Non-smoking
  • Limited sedentary time
  • Regular social engagement

Among these, optimal sleep — seven to nine hours nightly — was most effective, lowering depression risk by 22%! Social engagement notably shielded against recurrent depressive disorders, reducing risk by 18%.

Other factors included moderate drinking, which cut depression risk by 11%, a healthy diet by 6%, regular exercise by 14%, abstaining from smoking by 20%, and minimal sedentary behaviour by 13%.

Participants were categorised based on lifestyle habits into unfavourable, intermediate, and favourable groups. Those in the intermediate category had a 41% lower depression risk than those with unfavourable lifestyles, while the favourable group saw a 57% reduction.

Genetic predispositions were also examined, assigning participants a genetic risk score based on depression-linked genetic variants. Those with lower genetic risk were 25% less likely to experience depression compared to high-risk individuals, highlighting lifestyle's more substantial impact.

The research demonstrates that healthy living can significantly reduce depression risk across all genetic risk levels, emphasising lifestyle's critical role in depression prevention.

Further investigation into why healthy living lowers depression risk revealed certain brain regions, like the pallidum and hippocampus, were larger and potentially more robust in those leading healthier lifestyles. Blood markers also suggested that lifestyle influences immune and metabolic health, which in turn affects depression risk.
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