A scientific study, whose results were published at the European Conference on Neuropharmacology and Psychiatry, which was held in the Austrian capital Vienna, said that a healthy diet and avoiding watching or reading the news contributed to preventing anxiety and depression during the new Corona epidemic, even better than interacting with friends or following a sports routine or practicing hobbies.
A team of scientists made a set of comparisons between different health activities to find out the best measures that can be taken to reduce anxiety and depression during severe events, especially the emerging corona epidemic.
The researchers found that the Corona pandemic increased anxiety and depressive symptoms in the population. The authorities and health authorities recommend many behaviors to deal with this type of calamity.
But none of the studies tracked the effect of these behaviors on anxiety and depressive symptoms over time. Nor has any scientific evidence been provided on the extent to which these behaviors affect the mental health of individuals.
In the new study, researchers followed 942 Spanish adults for one year.
Every two weeks, the volunteers assessed the repetition of 10 selected coping behaviors. The researchers used psychometric methods to assess their levels of anxiety and depression.
At the end of the period, the researchers analyzed behaviors during a given time that were associated with fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression in the subsequent four weeks.
They found that some of the observed behaviors were linked to better coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These behaviors included following a healthy balanced diet, not constantly following news updates about the emerging corona, physical exercise, staying outdoors, and drinking water.
On the other hand, some behaviors that were generally thought to be beneficial, such as talking with relatives or friends, or taking up a hobby, had less impact on the mental health outcomes investigated in this study.
The researchers say the findings came as a surprise: “Like many people, we hypothesized that personal contact would play a greater role in avoiding anxiety and depression during stressful times.”
And it was difficult to elicit relationships between behaviors and symptoms because the researchers were looking at outcomes at the end of the trial rather than following the volunteers moment by moment.
For example, in a previous pilot study, the same research team found that those who followed a hobby showed less anxiety and depression.
However, researchers didn’t know if people first took up hobbies and then felt good and happy. Or vice versa, people first feel comfortable and happy, and then these feelings make them pursue hobbies.
But this study is unique, as it is based on evidence gathered through a long follow-up.
The researchers believe it is important for people to continue to pursue what works for them and that “if you enjoy seeing friends or pursuing a hobby, you should continue to do so”.
However, based on these findings, the researchers recommend everyone to follow a healthy, balanced diet, avoid watching stressful news too much, spend more time outdoors, engage in relaxing activities, and do physical exercise.
That work focused specifically on the coronavirus pandemic, as it is a stressful and current global condition, and researchers say they need to know if these factors apply to other stressful conditions. But they also believe simple behaviors may prevent anxiety and depression in similar events.
Commenting on this, Dr. Catherine Harm – who was not involved in that study – said that this research is interesting as it focuses on the types of confrontational behaviors that have been associated with reducing depression and anxiety over the course of a year from the Corona pandemic.
The strength of the study, according to Harm, is that it repeatedly collected responses from the same individuals, every two weeks, for a year, which gives strength to the results.
In short, says Harm, the findings suggest that eating healthy food, avoiding stressful news, drinking water, staying outdoors, and participating in relaxing activities showed a protective effect on mental health during this stressful time. “Interestingly, social contact and hobbies were less important than previously thought. previously”.
This study provides some important insights into the behaviors that may protect our mental health in times of high stress.
Harm says that future work is needed to test whether these associations are causal. Are these behaviors causing the mood improvement, or could it be the other way around, because we feel better and begin to engage more positively with our environment?