Eating healthy and avoiding the news best protected people’s mental health during pandemic, study finds

Eating healthy and avoiding the news were the main barriers to anxiety and the Depression during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study.

Both lifestyle changes were more effective in stabilizing Mental Health than interacting with friends, following a routine or pursuing hobbies.

The study, carried out by researchers in Barcelona, ​​observed 942 Spanish adults for a year.

At regular two-week intervals, participants were asked to rate how often they used 10 different coping behaviors, as well as their levels of anxiety and depression.

Following a balanced diet, not reading the news about Covid-19 updates too often, exercising, staying outdoors and drinking water were associated with better coping.

Certain behaviors that had been perceived as beneficial, such as talking with relatives and friends or taking up a hobby, had a lesser influence on people’s mental health.

Dr Joaquim Radua, lead researcher of the study, said the results were “a bit surprising”.

“Like many people, we had assumed that personal contact would play a bigger role in avoiding anxiety and depression during times of stress,” Radua said.

“Based on these results, we recommend everyone to follow a healthy/balanced diet, avoid watching stressful news too often, spend more time outdoors, do relaxing activities and do physical exercise.”

Radua said while the study focused on people’s mental health during Covid-19, further research could explore whether these factors could be applied to other stressful circumstances.

“These simple behaviors can prevent anxiety and depression, and prevention is better than cure,” Radua said.

Professor Catherine Harmer, from Oxford University’s department of psychiatry, who was not involved in the study, said the study provides “important insights” but further testing is needed.

“Future work is needed to test whether these associations are causal – is it these behaviors that lead to mood improvements or could it be otherwise – as we feel better, we begin to engage more positively with our environment?”

A report published by the Queensland Center for Mental Health Research in October 2021 found that the prevalence of global depression and anxiety increased by more than a quarter during the first year of the pandemic.

Scientists concluded that there were 53 million additional cases of major depressive disorder and 76 million cases of anxiety.

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