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Three Pillars of Mental Health

Sleep is the leading predictor of well-being in young adults.

Mental health habits

“Eat your fruits and vegetables, exercise, and get a good night’s sleep” sounds like advice from your mother (or doctor), but recent research findings identify these three healthy behaviors as predictive of good mental health and well-being among young adults.

University of Otago researchers in New Zealand conducted the cross-sectional survey study among 1,111 male and female adults ages 18–25. Participants completed an online survey reporting diet, sleep, physical activity and other relevant information as well as depressive symptoms and feelings of well-being.

Data analysis showed that sleep quality was the strongest predictor of well-being, followed by sleep quantity and physical activity. Consumption of raw fruits and vegetables was the only dietary factor predictive of greater well-being.

The study is available in Frontiers in Psychology (2020; 11 [579205]).

See also: Can Exercise Improve Mental Health?


Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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