Lifestyle interventions can help practitioners manage teen depression

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A new literature review highlights evidence that lifestyle interventions can help practitioners meet the increasing demand for youth depression management.

The review, published in Harvard Review of Psychiatry, assessed studies of lifestyle medicine interventions related to physical activity, sleep, nutrition, substance use, social connectedness, and stress management and provides clinical practice recommendations.

For example, one study showed that a two-hour decrease in sedentary activity in patients between ages 12 and 16 reduced depression scores by upwards of 22 percent by age 18. Researchers also found that various forms of connectedness—such as extracurricular activities like clubs and sports—have proven to reduce depressive symptoms and can overlap with other lifestyle interventions.

According to the authors, “having additional and more comprehensive details about such lifestyle recommendations could help clinicians integrate specific advice into anticipatory guidance, management, and treatment plans.”

The recommendations aim to support practitioners to:

  • Understand recently adopted screening standards for adolescents with depression and the potential advantages of using lifestyle medicine.
  • Set up a process for providing effective interventions for the increased number of patients with adolescent depression.
  • Design and update practitioners’ toolbox of treatment options for teens with depression.

The authors cautioned that interventions involving significant behavioral changes can be difficult, especially without social, financial, or cultural support. However, they said these interventions may help meet the increasing need for mental health services and give teens and families opportunities to empower themselves with the knowledge, skills, and habits to combat depression.