7 simple habits that can lower your risk of depression, even if it runs in your family

  • Depression affects about one in five American adults, according to CDC data.
  • Healthy habits, like getting enough sleep, were linked to a lower risk of depression in one study.
  • The study that lifestyle choices may have a greater impact than genes in preventing depression.

The way we live can have a huge impact on our mental health, according to researchers who have identified seven lifestyle changes linked to preventing depression, even when it runs in the family.

Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data estimates that 20%, or one in five adults in the US, have been diagnosed with depression at some point.

The authors of to study published in Nature Mental Health on September 11, said the reasons why people suffer from depression are complex, with previous research suggesting that lifestyle, biology and individual circumstances may play a role. The authors sought to discover which factors have the greatest effect and why.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Fudan University in China studied data from a biomedical database called UK Biobank on 290,000 people over a nine-year period, including 13,000 with depression.

In addition to genetic and lifestyle data, they analyzed the brain structure and immune and metabolic systems, including MRI brain scans, of just under 33,000 participants.

Overall, their findings suggested that having a poorer lifestyle appeared to affect the immune system and metabolism, which in turn appears to increase the risk of depression.

The team looked at seven healthy lifestyle factors and found that they were all associated with a lower risk of depression.

Co-author Dr Christelle Langley, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said: “We are used to thinking that a healthy lifestyle is important for our physical health, but it is equally important for our mental health. It’s good for brain health and cognition, but also indirectly by promoting a healthier immune system and better metabolism.”

The 7 lifestyle factors associated with a lower risk of depression:

Sleeping between seven and nine hours a night appears to have the biggest effect, reducing the risk of depression by 22%.

Never smoking reduced the risk by 20%, and having frequent social connections, which decreased the risk by 18%, appeared to be the most protective factor against recurrent bouts of depression.

Other lifestyle factors, such as drinking alcohol in moderation, appear to lower the risk of depression by 11%, following a healthy diet by 6%, engaging in regular physical activity by 14%, and low to moderate sedentary behavior by 13%.

Lifestyle appeared to make a bigger difference than genes in the study

Participants were given a genetic risk score based on how many genes linked to depression they carried. The authors found that those with the lowest risk scores had a 25% lower chance of developing depression than those with the highest scores.

However, they said this was a much smaller impact compared to lifestyle, which appeared to play a strong protective role against depression regardless of genetic makeup, according to their findings.

Participants were also divided into three categories depending on how many healthy habits they followed: unfavorable, intermediate, and favorable lifestyle habits. Those in the intermediate group were 41% less likely to develop depression than those in the unfavorable group. While those in the favorable lifestyle group were 57% less likely, the study found.

Co-author Professor Barbara Sahakian, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said: “Although our DNA, the genetic hand we are given, can increase the risk of depression, we have shown that a healthy lifestyle is potentially more important.

“Some of these lifestyle factors are things we have some control over, so trying to find ways to improve them, by ensuring we get a good night’s sleep and going out to see friends, for example, can make a real difference to life. of people. “

Depression can make it harder to live a healthy life

Paul Keedwell, a consultant psychiatrist and fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who was not involved in the study, told Insider: “This is an interesting and important study, given the vast database the scientists had to draw on.”

However, Keedwell pointed out some limitations. “At first glance, the study appears to prove a causal effect of unhealthy lifestyles on depression risk, but in population studies like this one, it is often difficult to be sure of the order of effect.

“We know that a depressive illness affects lifestyle and can lead to increased alcohol consumption through self-medication, inactivity, poor sleep, poor diet, smoking and social isolation,” he said.

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