Targeting modifiable risk behaviors offers promising prevention potential to improve adolescent mental health, according to a new study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (2023).
Cross-sectional self-report data from 6,640 Year 7 students from 71 schools in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia were analyzed for associations between the Big 6 modifiable lifestyle behaviors (sleep; physical activity; fruit, vegetable and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption; screen time; alcohol use and tobacco use) and mental health.
All examined behaviors were associated with anxiety, depression and psychological distress, with the lowest mental health symptom scores observed in participants who slept 9.5–10.5 hours per night; consumed three serves of fruit daily; consumed two serves of vegetables daily; never or rarely drank sugar-sweetened beverages; engaged in six days of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week; kept daily recreational screen time to 31–60 minutes; had not consumed a full standard alcoholic drink (past six months); or smoked a cigarette (past six months).
The authors concluded that while Australian Dietary, Movement and Alcohol Guidelines target physical health, findings indicate similar behavior thresholds may offer mental health benefits.
The data indicate that multiple lifestyle behaviors should be targeted to integrate substance use prevention and mental and physical health protection and promotion among adolescents.
Read the entire study: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1326020022000103