The Big 3 Health Behaviors and Mental Health

The Big 3 Health Behaviors and Mental Health

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology (2020) examined which of the “big 3” health behaviors of physical activity, sleep and nutrition most strongly predicts mental health and well-being.

A total of 1,111 young adults (28.4% men) ages 18–25 from New Zealand and the United States answered an online survey.

Results showed 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 authors 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.

It’s also well known that substance use and addition can lead to other mental disorders and lower mental health:


Taken together, research indicates the need for providing mental health programs that both prevent substance use/misuse and promote multiple healthy habits, including sleep, physical activity and nutrition.

The good news is that evidence-based programs that integrate substance use/misuse prevention with healthy lifestyle behavior promotion already exist.

The SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness programs for youth and InShape Prevention Plus Wellness for young adults are examples of proven programs that prevent substance use/misuse while enhancing healthy habits, including the “big 3” health promoting behaviors.

Programs that integrate substance use prevention with wellness promotion have the greatest hope for protecting and improving the mental and physical health of youth and young adults.

Read the full “big 3” health behaviors research article:

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