WHILE trauma, divorce and bereavement can send anyone into a downward spiral of depression, there are some surprising, everyday factors that also heighten our risk for mental illness.

A top pharmaceutical firm concerned about the high use of antidepressant medication in South Africa has launched an education campaign to shed light on the ordinary but often unsuspected things that could have an impact on the public’s mental well-being. Abdurahman Kenny, the Central Nervous System portfolio manager at Pharma Dynamics, said the growing incidence of depression and anxiety worldwide implies that there are other factors that make modern-day society more vulnerable to mental illness.

“Research shows that spending too much time indoors, being stuck in traffic, heavy social media use, lack of movement and even slouching could all be triggers,” he said. According to research by Harvard’s Medical School, staying cooped up indoors is not only bad for our physical health, but mental health too.

These days most of us spend the majority of our days indoors denying our bodies of much-needed vitamin D that may provide some protection against depression. Kenny said exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s production of serotonin, a hormone associated with an elevated mood.

“By just spending 10 to 15 minutes outside with our arms and legs exposed to the sun (without sunscreen), is enough for our bodies to produce the required amount of vitamin D. “Evidence shows that a lack of vitamin D increases the likelihood of depression by up to 14% and suicide by 50%, so be sure to make safe sun exposure – either in the morning or late afternoons a habit,” he said.

A report by the UK’s National Office of Statistics showed that people who commute for longer than half an hour to work each way have greater levels of stress and anxiety. Kenny said the average South African spends almost three hours a day in traffic, which doesn’t do our mood any good.

He suggested speaking to employers about working flexi-hours or from home if the type of job you do allows for this arrangement. Heavy social media use, about two or more hours a day, has also been associated with poor mental health. According to the latest Global Digital Yearbook, South Africans already spend almost three hours a day trawling Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms. Schedule regular breaks from social media.

Studies have shown that week-long breaks from Facebook can lower your stress levels and lead to higher life satisfaction. Review your social media habits and instead of spending an exhaustive 30 to 45 minutes at a time on social media, rather limit it to five minutes in the morning, afternoon and early evening.” Sitting too long can also make us anxious. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine,researchers found that people who spent more than seven hours sitting than those who sat for four or fewer hours a day were prone to more stress.

Also, a bad posture and slouching in a chair resulted in symptoms of depression. Kenny encouraged workers to follow a healthy and balanced diet, get enough sleep, limit alcohol intake, spend quality time with friends and family, and to make time for hobbies and interests, which all contribute to a healthy mental state.

If you feel depressed, contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 080 020 5026 or visit: Let’s Talk

Issued by Meropa Communications on behalf of Pharma Dynamics.

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