health care

Researchers: Mental health a cause of unhealthy behaviors

Posted 2/11/13

PROVIDENCE – Poor mental health leads to unhealthy behaviors in low-income adults – not the other way around, according to a new study by researchers from The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.

They report stress, depression and anxiety predict potentially harmful behaviors, such as smoking, binge drinking, illegal drug use, unprotected sex and unhealthy diets. Lead author Jennifer Walsh says one possible explanation for these findings is that these behaviors may be used as coping mechanisms to manage the effects of stress, depression and anxiety.

“Although there are established relationships between physical and mental health, few studies have explored the relationship between health behaviors and mental health over time, particularly in the context of socioeconomic disadvantage,” Walsh said. “Our goal was to determine whether mental health problems lead to subsequent unhealthy behaviors, or if unhealthy behaviors contribute to poor mental health.”

The study is published online in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine.

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