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  • Writer's picturePawel Pilat

Healthy Lifestyle and Depression

In this article, psychology student Pawel explains the relationship between a healthy lifestyle and a reduced risk for depression. Read on to learn about which factors are especially important.

A person leaning forward on a pillow in a meditative state

A new study conducted by Zhao et al., (2023) wanted to determine the influence genetics and lifestyle have on depression. Published in the Nature Mental Health journal, this study was conducted over 9 years with nearly 290,000 participants of whom 13,000 had a diagnosis of depression. The following results were found:

Lifestyle factors that were directly linked with a lower risk of depression are:

  • Moderate alcohol consumption

  • Healthy diet

  • Regular physical activity

  • Healthy sleep

  • Never smoking

  • Low-to-moderate sedentary behaviour

  • Frequent social connection

Of all of these factors, the researchers found that a good night’s sleep (between seven and nine hours) had the biggest impact. This factor alone has the power to reduce the risk of depression, including single depressive episodes and treatment resistant depression by 22%. All these lifestyle factors contributed to a lower risk of depression, but it was apparent that people in the high to moderate genetic risk of depression particularly benefited from a lifestyle change.

This claim is supported by MRI brain scans which found a number of regions were larger in volume, had more neurons, and more connections in those with a healthy lifestyle. With the help of neuroplasticity, we can literally grow our brains.

A healthy lifestyle is linked to endless benefits, both in physical and mental health. Bonus: if we all focus on prioritizing our health, we empower those around us to do the same. To learn more about how to improve your sleep, visit our article on 5 tips for a better sleep.

References Zhao, Y., Yang, L., Sahakian, B. J., Langley, C., Zhang, W., Kuo, K., Li, Z., Gan, Y., Li, Y., Zhao, Y., Yu, J., Feng, J., & Cheng, W. (2023). The brain structure, immunometabolic and genetic mechanisms underlying the association between lifestyle and Depression. Nature Mental Health.

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