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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Is A Healthy Lifestyle Really Key To Preventing Depression?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

A new study reported in The Times has identified seven good habits that can help to lower the risk of depression. The international research team included academics from the University of Cambridge and Fudan University in Japan, who studied data from nearly 290,000 people from the UK Biobank.

The results of the study, which are published in the journal Nature Mental Health, will probably not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has read up on how to manage mental health conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety.

The seven health habits recommended by the researchers include getting enough sleep; drinking alcohol only in moderation; eating healthily; taking regular exercise; avoiding smoking; having regular social contact; and avoiding sitting for too long.

Dr Christelle Langley, from the psychiatry department at Cambridge, said: “We’re used to thinking of a healthy lifestyle as being important to our physical health, but it’s just as important for our mental health. It’s good for our brain health and cognition, but also indirectly by promoting a healthier immune system and better metabolism.”

The idea that we can actively manage our mental health through lifestyle choices can be an empowering one, and it may offer useful solutions for many people who are wrestling with depression and its close relations, such as anxiety and low self esteem.

However, other people, especially those who have been gripped by very severe debilitating depression, may find this information frustrating because depression can take away your motivation to follow much of the recommended advice. For example, some people may find it almost impossible to exercise or socialise when they are feeling low.

By suggesting that it is poor lifestyle choices that brought on the depression in the first place may only serve to increase negative emotions such as guilt and shame, keeping an individual trapped in a negative thought cycle.

The scientists also acknowledge that some people carry genes that predispose them to depression, and this group were 25% more likely to develop the problem, regardless of their lifestyle.

The role of genetics in depression is thought to be a complex one, and scientists believe that just because you have a particular set of genes inherited from your parents who have a history of depression, it does not automatically mean that you will suffer from it. In most cases, other triggers such as childhood trauma or a stressful event also need to occur.

The fact that it is not solely lifestyle choices that cause depression may be a faint consolation to some people, but the real question is perhaps how can persistent depression be managed besides the oft-repeated advice regarding diet, exercise, and so on?

There is no straightforward answer to this question, as everyone responds to treatment in different ways. Some people might respond well to certain therapies but not others, and it may be that they need to try out a few different approaches before they find a helpful solution.

If you are looking for anxiety therapy in Kensington, please get in touch today.

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