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Unhealthy lifestyles and depression closely related: study

People with healthier lifestyles are less likely to develop depression, a new study that followed 1200 people over five years has found.

The research, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, also found there was a tendency for those with a history of depression to lose points in a lifestyle assessment over the five years.

Researchers assessed lifestyles through a rating comprising body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure time, physical activity and diet. Study lead Dr Seana Gall, from the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research, said the study’s grouping of health behaviours was significant, as studying individual risk factors and their relationship with depression ignores the fact that risk factors often cluster as unhealthy lifestyles.

The team followed people aged 25–36 at the start of the study. Gall said people with healthier lifestyles at the outset were 22 per cent less likely to develop a first episode of depression over the five years, while people with depression were 46 per cent more likely to receive a lower score in a lifestyle assessment over the same period.

“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,” Gall said. “The study highlights the need for holistic management of young adults in terms of their mental and physical health, including health behaviours.”

The results suggest that a healthier lifestyle may protect against the first onset of depression, Gall said, adding this means the findings are relevant for those managing the physical and mental health of younger adults.

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