“A healthy mind in a healthy body” was the Romans’ prescription for the good life way back in the 1st Century, and new medical research suggests they were right.
In a world first, Australian experts have studied how lifestyle can lead to the onset of depression, and how a healthier lifestyle might help those suffering from depression. It’s the first time the issue has been studied from both sides.
Following 1200 people over five years, the major project assessed the lifestyles of people aged 26-36 and followed up when they were aged 31-41. They assessed lifestyles through a score comprising body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure time, physical activity and diet.
Dr Seana Gall of the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research led the research.
She says people with healthier lifestyles at the beginning of the study were significantly less likely (22%) to develop a first episode of depression over the five years.
Those with a history of depression tended to lose points for those lifestyle factors over the five years (46%).
This was more important than the issues that are often associated with depression – socio-economic position, parental and marital status, social support, major life events, cardiovascular disease history and self-rated physical health.
Dr Gall says the results suggest a healthier lifestyle may protect against the first onset of depression and the findings are relevant for those managing the physical and mental health of younger adults.
“Our findings have implications for reducing the higher risk of cardiovascular disease that is seen in those with depression and also potentially reducing the risk of developing depression in young people” Dr Gall says.
The research has been published this month in the journal Psychological Medicine.