Three Pillars of Mental Health

A University of Otago, New Zealand, study has found that three pillars of health which are exercising, quality of sleep and eating raw vegetables and fruit, promotes better health mentally and overall well-being feeling in younger adults. And the research found that the strongest predictor was better quality of sleep than sleep quantity.

The study was a survey of more than 1,100 young adults that were from the United States and New Zealand about their physical activity, diet, sleep and mental health. The research found that the quality of sleep rather than the quantity of sleep was the largest predictor of well-being and mental health.

This was surprising to the team because the recommendations of sleep usually pertain to quantity instead of quality. And while the team found that both not enough sleep (8 hours or less) and sleeping too much (12 hours or more) were linked to symptoms of higher depression and less well-being, the quality of sleep significantly outranked quantity in predicting well-being and mental health.

The findings suggest that sleep quality should be promoted along with sleep quantity of tools for helping young adults improve their mental health and well-being. Young adults that slept over nine hours every night were the least affected with depressive symptoms and feelings of well-being were increased for those who slept at least 8 hours each night.

In addition to quality of sleep, exercising and consuming raw vegetables and fruits (in that order), were three modifiable behaviors which correlated to increased mental health and well-being in young people. A well-being feeling was the highest for young adults who consumed 4.8 servings of raw vegetables and fruit per day. Those who consumed less than two servings per day and more than 8 servings per day, reported lesser feelings of well-being.

All three pillars, sleep, physical activity and a good diet, could contribute to promoting optimal well-being among young adults. This is a population where the prevalence of mental disorders is high and well-being is unfortunately suboptimal.

The team did not manipulate sleep, activity or diet in the testing of their changes on mental health and well-being. Other research has already done that and has found good results. The current research suggests that a allover health intervention which prioritizes quality sleep, exercise and a diet including raw fruits and vegetables together, could be the next logical step in this research. The team’s study showed that they are all important for predicting which young adults are flourishing versus suffering.

To view the original scientific study click below

The Big Three Health Behaviors and Mental Health and Well-Being Among Young Adults: A Cross-Sectional Investigation of Sleep, Exercise, and Diet.