The 3 Big Health Behaviors and Mental Health among Young Adults

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology (2020) examined the differential associations between sleep, physical activity, and dietary factors as predictors of mental health and well-being in young adults using a cross-sectional survey of 1,111 young adults ages 18-25 years old.

Results showed that sleep quality was the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms and well-being, followed by sleep quantity and physical activity.

Only one dietary factor—raw fruit and vegetable consumption—predicted greater well-being but not depressive symptoms. 

The author’s concluded that sleep quality is an important predictor of mental health and well-being in young adults, whereas physical activity and diet are secondary but still significant factors.

While these patterns suggest that future interventions could prioritize sleep quality to maximize mental health and well-being in young adults, we note that breakfast consumption was not included in this research and has been found to be a key lifestyle factor associated with mental and physical well-being in previous studies.

Addressing all three of the big health behaviors- sleep, healthy eating including breakfast consumption and physical activity- are important to promoting the mental (and physical) health of young people as well as preventing harmful substance use.

For this reason, they should be integrated within substance use prevention interventions. 

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