These 2 Things You Do All the Time Are Making You Depressed, Study Says

The groundbreaking study was one of the first to analyze which changeable behaviors lead to depression.

For some people, the battle against depression is a lifelong one. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic raging on and completely upending our daily habits, work schedules, and social calendars, even those who don't normally have mental health issues may find themselves battling depression. But what's actually behind these struggles? According to a recent study, there are at least two things you likely do all the time that could be causing depression: watching TV and taking naps.

By looking at a large data set from over 100,000 people, collected since 2006, researchers from Harvard Medical School examined specific changeable behaviors including diet, exercise, media intake, living environment, and socialization, according to Fast Company. Through the use of a statistical method known as Mendelian randomization, the researchers' analysis revealed that tuning in to shows and napping during the day were the two activities that can actually cause depression.

Man sitting home in his armchair, using phone and changing channels

Researchers admit that more research is required to determine exactly why these behaviors could be making you depressed—including the fact that both activities can be the result of a sedentary lifestyle. But the study's authors also point out that the usefulness of these discoveries lies in the fact that their analysis focuses entirely on behaviors that can be changed.

"Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but until now researchers have focused on only a handful of risk and protective factors, often in just one or two domains," lead author Karmel Choi, PhD, investigator in the Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in statement. "Our study provides the most comprehensive picture to date of modifiable factors that could impact depression risk."

RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

On the brighter side, the study also found that socialization and human connections were the most effective behaviors in decreasing depression. "Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion," senior author Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, associate chief for research at Massachusetts General Hospital's Department of Psychiatry, said in a statement. "These factors are more relevant now than ever at a time of social distancing and separation from friends and family." And for ways more ways you could be doing damage, check out 26 Things You're Doing That Are Hurting Your Mental Health.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more