The Risk of Depression, Cut in Half
Depression in the United States is on the rise. Consider these statistics: depression for adults between 18-years-old and 29-years-old is up 13.9 percentage points (from 20.4% in 2017 to 34.3% in 2023). During the same time period, depression among those between 30-years-old and 44-years-old rose 12.6 percentage points (from 22.3% to 34.9%). The rate of depression in youth has also increased 24% between 2016 and 2019. Most recently, 11.5% of youth reported severe major depression in 2023. Depression has increased dramatically in our society. (For more on this see U.S. Depression Rates Reach New Highs (gallup.com) and The State of Pediatric Mental Health in America 2023 Report – Office Practicum.)
Fortunately, you can help cut the risk of depression in half for your family members by practicing a few habits in your home. Specifically, research suggests that practicing five or more of these seven habits can cut the risk of depression in half. Don’t limit yourself to five though. You can build all seven into your family lifestyle, protecting your family from depression. Here are the seven habits.
- Develop healthy, age-appropriate sleep habits. Getting a good night’s rest reduces the risk of depression. It also reduces the risk of suicide. So, create a positive bedtime routine and encourage everyone to get their eight hours.
- Exercise. Physical activity has been shown to be as effective as medication for many in managing and reducing depression. You can go for a walk, ride your bike, run, play a sport, swim… The options are countless. The goal is to get moving. Exercise and reduce your risk of depression.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Eat those fruits and vegetables to fight depression. A healthy balanced diet helps to stabilize our mood and protects us from depression. Along those same lines…
- Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant. It slows brain activity. People who drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol (more than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women) increase their risk of depression.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of depression. The more a person smokes, the higher the risk of depression. Smoking cessation decreases the risk of depression and the longer the duration of not smoking, the lower the risk of depression.
- Get away from the screen. Put down the technology and get moving. Long periods of sedentary behavior represent an increased risk for depression. Instead of binge watching your favorite series, “go old school” and watch one episode a week. If you don’t want to “go totally old school,” watch one episode a day. The goal is to get up and get moving every day to avoid sedentary behavior. In addition, get off social media and socialize face-to-face more often…which leads to our last daily habit to decrease the risk of depression.
- Cultivate friendships and social connections. Hobbies and activities with those who share your interests will create an excellent opportunity to build social connections. Engaging in hobbies and activities that we enjoy, especially with other people, boosts our mood. It increases our sense of well-being and increases our life satisfaction. It decreases depression.
Know what I like about these seven habits? They are good, healthy habits for everyone. They represent a lifestyle of wellness that will benefit all of us. Cutting the risk of depression does not demand we do something extraordinary. It simply means we live a healthy lifestyle and promote a healthy lifestyle in our families. Make it a point to do so this year.