According to the World Health Organization, 5% of adults around the world experience depression. But new research is highlighting how important the choices we make every day are to maintaining our mental health. An international team of researchers, including those from the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and China’s Fudan University, set out to find a link between lifestyle and depression risk.
The scientists analyzed data from the U.K. Biobank, a biomedical database, focusing on 290-thousand people, 13-thousand of whom had depression, over a nine-year period. The team identified a combination of seven positive lifestyle factors that act as a “protective shield” against depression. These habits are linked with a lower risk of depression:
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- A balanced diet
- Consistent physical activity
- Quality sleep (7-9 hours)
- Not smoking
- Avoiding sedentary behavior
- Frequent social connections
- The combination of all seven had the most benefits, but researchers found that quality sleep makes the most difference of all the habits. Those who regularly got between seven and nine hours of sleep a night reduced single depressive episodes and treatment-resistant depression by 22%.
- Social connection offers the most protection against recurring depression, lowering the risk by 18%.
“It is best to prevent yourself from getting depressed or to seek help as soon as you realize that you are beginning to develop depression,” says Professor Barbara Sahakian, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. “Having a healthy lifestyle reduces the chance of getting depressed by 57%.”