Mental Health in Lifestyle Medicine: Implication for Substance Use Prevention Specialists

Mental Health in Lifestyle Medicine: Implication for Substance Use Prevention Specialists

A paper published in Analytic Review (2021) described how the field of lifestyle medicine, which emphasizes the role of lifestyle factors in the onset and treatment of disease and wellbeing, is well suited to address mental health.

We further add to this paper how lifestyle medicine offers insights for advancing the field of substance use prevention as well.

Healthy Lifestyle Pillars

The authors note that there is a critical opportunity for the field of lifestyle medicine to incorporate mental health into each of the foundational pillars (diet, exercise, substance use, psychological wellbeing/stress, relationships, sleep) while also specifically targeting lifestyle interventions for populations with mental disorders.

Similarly, we suggest that the foundational pillars of lifestyle medicine should also be integrated into substance use prevention interventions to advance prevention practice and research as well as enhance the overall wellbeing and quality of life of youth, families, and communities.

Bi-Directional Relationships

One of the important points made in this article is the bidirectional relationship between substance use/misuse and mental health, and mental health and lifestyle behaviors.

These relationships suggest that effective substance use/misuse prevention may help prevent mental disorders while improving lifestyle behaviors like physical activity, nutrition and sleep may enhance mental health as well as prevent chronic disease.

Prevention is Too Exclusionary

While lifestyle medicine has recognized the importance of preventing/reducing substance use/misuse as a key pillar to protecting and advancing health and wellbeing, the prevention field has yet to fully embrace the role and importance of other lifestyle behaviors as essential targets for prevention.

Some notable exceptions are efforts at positive youth development, integrating wellness with prevention, and multiple risk behavior interventions.

Yet by and large, prevention continues to remain an exclusionary practice overly focused on specific types of substance use (e.g., e-cigarettes vs. marijuana vs. alcohol) while largely avoiding addressing healthy lifestyle behaviors that can enhance substance use prevention as well as mental and physical health outcomes.


Following lifestyle medicine’s model, substance use prevention should expand to be more inclusionary in it’s targeting of health risk and health promoting behaviors that will advance the wellbeing, performance and happiness of youth, families, and communities.

The prevention field has a great opportunity in the 21st century to adopt a more sustainable and practical approach by expanding its focus in practice and research on multiple lifestyle behaviors to make a greater impact on the health and quality of life of our citizens.

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