Lifestyle choices and mental health: a longitudinal survey with German and Chinese students.

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Lifestyle choices and mental health: a longitudinal survey with German and Chinese students.

BMC Public Health. 2018 05 16;18(1):632

Authors: Velten J, Bieda A, Scholten S, Wannem?ller A, Margraf J

BACKGROUND: A healthy lifestyle can be beneficial for one’s mental health. Thus, identifying healthy lifestyle choices that promote psychological well-being and reduce mental problems is useful to prevent mental disorders. The aim of this longitudinal study was to evaluate the predictive values of a broad range of lifestyle choices for positive mental health (PMH) and mental health problems (MHP) in German and Chinese students.
METHOD: Data were assessed at baseline and at 1-year follow-up. Samples included 2991 German (Mage?=?21.69, SD?=?4.07) and 12,405 Chinese (Mage?=?20.59, SD?=?1.58) university students. Lifestyle choices were body mass index, frequency of physical and mental activities, frequency of alcohol consumption, smoking, vegetarian diet, and social rhythm irregularity. PMH and MHP were measured with the Positive Mental Health Scale and a 21-item version of the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale. The predictive values of lifestyle choices for PMH and MHP at baseline and follow-up were assessed with single-group and multi-group path analyses.
RESULTS: Better mental health (higher PMH and fewer MHP) at baseline was predicted by a lower body mass index, a higher frequency of physical and mental activities, non-smoking, a non-vegetarian diet, and a more regular social rhythm. When controlling for baseline mental health, age, and gender, physical activity was a positive predictor of PMH, smoking was a positive predictor of MHP, and a more irregular social rhythm was a positive predictor of PMH and a negative predictor of MHP at follow-up. The good fit of a multi-group model indicated that most lifestyle choices predict mental health comparably across samples. Some country-specific effects emerged: frequency of alcohol consumption, for example, predicted better mental health in German and poorer mental health in Chinese students.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings underline the importance of healthy lifestyle choices for improved psychological well-being and fewer mental health difficulties. Effects of lifestyle on mental health are comparable in German and Chinese students. Some healthy lifestyle choices (i.e., more frequent physical activity, non-smoking, regular social rhythm) are related to improvements in mental health over a 1-year period.

PMID: 29769115 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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