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7 healthy lifestyle habits that can help prevent depression, study

Researchers have identified seven key lifestyle habits that can help reduce the risk of depression, potentially outweighing genetic risk factors, according to a study published in the journal Nature Mental Health.

These habits include having a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining social connections, getting adequate sleep, and minimizing sedentary behavior.

The study analyzed data from nearly 290,000 individuals over nine years, with approximately 13,000 experiencing depression during that time.

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Participants were categorized into three groups based on how many of the identified healthy lifestyle factors they followed: unfavorable, intermediate, and favorable.

Those in the favorable group were 57% less likely to develop depression, while those in the intermediate group were 41% less likely compared to the unfavorable group.

Depression risk can be influenced by a range of factors, including environmental, biological, genetic, and psychological elements.

To understand the relationship between lifestyle factors, genetic risk, and depression, the researchers assigned each participant a genetic risk score, factoring in known genetic variants associated with depression risk.

The results showed that regardless of their genetic risk, individuals who followed a healthy lifestyle had a reduced risk of depression.

Sleep emerged as the most critical lifestyle factor in the study, with 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night reducing the risk of depression, even treatment-resistant depression, by 22%.

Inadequate sleep can negatively affect cognitive function, memory, and emotional well-being, increasing the risk of depression.

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The relationship between sleep and depression is complex, as depression can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to a vicious cycle.

Other lifestyle habits also played significant roles in reducing depression risk. A healthy diet was associated with a 6% reduction in risk, moderate alcohol consumption with an 11% reduction, regular physical activity with a 14% reduction, low-to-moderate sedentary behavior with a 13% reduction, and never smoking with a 20% reduction.

Frequent social connections emerged as the most protective factor against recurrent depressive disorder, reducing the overall risk of depression by 18%.

Failure to engage in these healthy behaviors can exacerbate feelings of depression, creating a snowball effect that perpetuates depressed moods.

For individuals struggling with depression, it is important to challenge maladaptive thoughts and seek various treatments with solid backing, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, self-help books, mindfulness, medication, activity scheduling, cyclic breathing, and therapy, depending on preference.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower the risk of depression, potentially overriding genetic predispositions.

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