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One of the greatest mysteries when it comes to mental health is actually just one simple question: what causes depression? It’s not that the medical community doesn’t know the risk factors for depression. But the problem is that the answer to this question is fairly complex.
Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain? Possibly. According to Harvard Health Publishing, there can be some other factors to blame too—including faulty mood regulation by the brain, stress, genes, and even certain medications.
Our lifestyle also has a huge role to play in our risk of depression—especially our screen time and sleep habits. In fact, a research led by the Western Sydney University found that lifestyle factors such as less screen time, adequate sleep, a better-quality diet, and physical activity strongly impact depression.
The study involved almost 85,000 people and explored the link between depression and lifestyle factors. Their findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine.
Optimal sleep and screen time have big roles to play in depression
According to the study, a significant relationship between physical activity, healthy diet, and optimal sleep (7-9 hours) was associated with less frequency of depressed mood.
Screen time and tobacco smoking were also significantly associated with a higher frequency of depressed mood.
Over time, the lifestyle factors which were protective of depressed mood in both individuals with clinical depression and those without a depressive disorder was optimal sleep (7-9 hours) and lower screen time, while a better-quality diet was indicated to be protective of depressed mood in those without depression, as per the study.
Also, watch: 4 things most people get wrong about depression
Alcohol and depression have a connection too
A higher frequency of alcohol consumption was surprisingly associated with reduced frequency of depressed mood in people with depression. This may potentially be due to the self-medicating use of alcohol by those with depression to manage their 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,” said 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,” he added.