Adequate sleep and less screen time critical for mental health

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It is said that depression is the most prevalent mental disorder and a leading cause of global disability, with mental health services worldwide reportedly struggling to meet the demand for treatment – largely secondary to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health.

Given this, improving mental health and wellbeing through lifestyle factors is particularly important, especially when we’re faced with significant stressors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With evolving data exploring the link between depression and lifestyle factors, a new cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of data from the UK Biobank has found what the lifestyle factors are that strongly impact depression.

Published in BMC Medicine, the study, which was conducted by an international research team that was led by Western Sydney University, included almost 85,000 participants and found that reducing screen time, getting enough sleep, eating a better and including regular physical activity was associated with less frequency of depressed mood.

“The research is the first assessment of such a broad range of lifestyle factors and its effect on depression symptoms using the large UK Biobank lifestyle and mood dataset,” says lead co-author, Professor Jerome Sarris, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University.

“While people usually know that physical activity is important for mood, we now have additional data showing that adequate sleep and less screen time is also critical to reduce depression.

“The findings also suggest that one’s dietary pattern is partly implicated in the germination or exacerbation of depressed mood.”

Professor Sarris adds that these findings “may inform public health policy by further highlighting the important relationship between people being encouraged and supported to engage in a range of health-promoting activities”.

“In particular, maintaining optimal sleep and lessening screen time (which is often an issue in youth), while have adequate physical activity and good dietary quality, may reduce the symptoms of depression,” he says.

To read the study, visit: bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-020-01813-5