A Metareview of Lifestyle Psychiatry
Recent research has elucidated the role of these lifestyle factors – diet, sleep, and exercise, on our minds. Upon finding a link between various mental disorders to these factors, Firth et al., conducted a review and analysis of the top-tier evidence to examine how physical activity, sleep, dietary patterns and tobacco smoking can impact the development and treatment of a variety of different mental disorders.
Broadly, they found evidence that physical activity is helpful for both the prevention and treatment of a variety of mental health disorders and is one of the most extensively researched “lifestyle factors”. They also found that tobacco smoking was a significant risk factor that contributed to people developing mental illness. Poor sleep was also a modifiable risk factor in both the development and worsening of mental health disorders and symptoms, and in the research, a complex two-way relationship between sleep and mental health symptoms is highlighted. More evidence is needed to establish the role of dietary patterns in mental health.
With these findings, the researchers have made recommendations for the integration and delivery of lifestyle interventions in healthcare settings at a broad scale to help people improve their mental health. A few important steps to optimizing mental health and cognitive performance include taking adequate time for exercise, creating an environment conducive to quality sleep, not smoking tobacco, and fueling your mind and body with healthy, whole foods.
By: Douglas Noordsy, MD and Vanika Chawla, MD
- Reference: Firth J, Solmi M, Wootton RE, et al. A meta-review of “lifestyle psychiatry”: the role of exercise, smoking, diet and sleep in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. World Psychiatry. 2020;19(3):360-380. doi:10.1002/wps.20773