The pillars of mental health: Good sleep, exercise, and healthy diet

The pillars of mental health: Good sleep, exercise, and healthy diet

Sleep quality was the biggest predictor of mental health and wellbeing. Having good quality sleep, exercising, and eating more raw fruits and vegetables predicts better mental health and wellbeing in young adults, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand surveyed more than 1,100 young adults from New Zealand and the United States about their sleep, physical activity, diet, and mental health, and they discover that sleep quality was the strongest predictor of mental health and wellbeing.

"This is surprising because sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality. While we did see that both too little sleep – less than eight hours – and too much sleep – more than 12 hours – were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower wellbeing, sleep quality significantly outranked sleep quantity in predicting mental health and wellbeing," said lead author Shay-Ruby Wickham.

"This suggests that sleep quality should be promoted alongside sleep quantity as tools for improving mental health and wellbeing within young adults."

Wickham discovered that depressive symptoms were lowest for young adults who slept 9.7 hours per night, and feelings of wellbeing were highest for those who slept eight hours each night.

After sleep quality, exercise and eating more raw fruits and vegetables – in that order – correlated with better mental health and wellbeing in the participants, with wellbeing placing highest among those who ate 4.8 servings of raw fruit and vegetables per day.

"Sleep, physical activity, and a healthy diet can be thought of as three pillars of health, which could contribute to promoting optimal well-being among young adults, a population where the prevalence of mental disorders is high and wellbeing is suboptimal," Wickham added.

The results were published in ‘Frontiers in Psychology’.

(DPA/Reuters)

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