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Reducing Your Risk of Depression
by Amy Scholten, MPH
It may not always be possible to prevent depression. However, the following strategies may help reduce your risk of becoming depressed.
Be Aware of Your Personal Risk of Depression
Be alert to factors that can increase your risk for depression, such as:
Have a Psychiatric Evaluation and Psychotherapy, If Needed
If you feel overwhelmed by stress or are experiencing symptoms of depression, see your doctor for a physical exam and mental health evaluation. You may be referred for further evaluation or counseling, if appropriate.
Develop a Strong Family, Social and Spiritual Support System
A network of supportive relationships is beneficial for the prevention and treatment of depression. Positive family interactions and support are beneficial, especially for children and the elderly. Supportive relationships serve as a buffer against stress, which can sometimes trigger depression.
A high level of religious involvement is associated with a reduced risk of depression. Spiritual faith in the context of organized religion can have a buffering effect on depression. In a group setting, it can provide the additional benefit of social support.
Reduce Your Stress
A variety of relaxation techniques can help you cope with stressors that may contribute to depression. Examples include meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, and biofeedback. These techniques help you pay attention to tension in your body and release it with exercises that help quiet your mind and relax your muscles. You can also reduce stress by getting adequate sleep, rest, and recreation.
Regular exercise helps you relieve stress and may help prevent or reduce depression. Aerobic exercise and yoga have been found to be particularly beneficial for reducing stress and improving mood. Aerobic exercise can raise the levels of brain chemicals that affect mood, such as endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. Other benefits of exercise include weight loss, increased muscle tone, and improved self-esteem. Yoga provides the benefits of stretching and deep relaxation.
Get Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Maintain a Healthful Diet
Eat a healthful diet that is low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Specific dietary factors that may be beneficial in depression are the B-complex vitamins (found in whole grains) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish, fish oil, and flax seeds).
Get the Necessary Amount of Sleep
Get a reasonable amount of sleep (around 8 hours) nightly. If insomnia is a problem, seek treatment. Chronic insomnia is thought to be a risk factor for depression.
Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 10, 2016.
Depression in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 10, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Depression in elderly patients. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated May 31, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Ellison CG, Flannelly KJ. Religious involvement and risk of major depression in a prospective nationwide study of African American adults. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2009;197(8):568-73.
Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 20, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
McCullough ME, Larson DB. Religion and depression: a review of the literature. Twin Res. 1999;2(2):126-36.
Wink P, Dillon M, et al. Religion as moderator of the depression-health connection. Res Aging. 2005;27:197-220.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 9/17/2014
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