Harvard study suggests avoiding TV and daytime naps to avoid depression

The goal of this large-scale study was to provide actionable information on how to avoid depression or decrease depressive symptoms.

sad woman sitting alone on couch looking outside

Daytime napping and your television habits may be contributing to your depression.

Photo by panitanphoto on Shutterstock
  • Depression is a very common mental disorder, with more than 264 million people struggling with this issue worldwide. According to WHO, depression is a leading cause of disability.
  • Depression results from a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors.
  • A new large-scale Harvard Medical School study suggests daytime napping and frequent television-watching may be negatively contributing to depression.

Depression is a common mental disorder, with more than 264 million people (of all ages) who struggle with this issue.

There are several different types of depression, with the two most common being:

  1. Recurrent depressive disorder
  2. Bipolar affective disorder

Depression, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is a leading cause of disability worldwide. It results from a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. While there are several effective treatments for depression (including antidepressant medications), there are also lifestyle changes you can make to prevent or lessen the impact of depressive symptoms.

    man napping on couch while watching television

    This large-scale, two-stage approach study scanned a wide range of modifiable factors that could be associated with the risk of developing depression...

    Photo by Pressmaster on Shutterstock

    According to a large-scale (over 100,000 participants) study out of Harvard Medical School, there are many ways you can lessen the impact of depression. The study focused on the lifestyle factors that you can easily modify if you suffer from depression.

    The researchers took a two-stage approach to this study. The first stage drew on a database of over 100,000 participants in the UK Biobank to systematically scan a wide range of modifiable factors that could be associated with the risk of developing depression. These modifiable factors included things like social interaction, media use, sleeping patterns, diet, physical activity, and environmental exposures.

    The second stage of this study was to narrow down the field to a smaller set of promising and potentially causal targets for depression. Throughout this two-step process, they were able to determine certain behaviors that can directly influence depression.

    Confiding in and socializing with others could lessen depression symptoms.

    Lead author Jordan Smoller, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School explains to Fast Company: "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 highlights the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion."

    This is further backed up by previous research done on the health benefits of socializing. According to Psychology Today, interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. This helpful article lists several ways you can slowly incorporate more socialization into your life, with things like Skype/Facetime calls with family and friends, taking a new class, or volunteering at a charity organization.

    Your television habits may be negatively impacting your depression.

    The study suggests certain behaviors (such as watching television) could be associated with depression, but it isn't the first of it's kind to make that connection.

    In fact, there have been several studies (including this one from 2017), that have suggested there is a link between how much television you watch and your mental health. Most of these studies conclude that the more television you watch, the worse your mental health can be.

    Daytime napping also negatively impacts depression.

    While it's common knowledge that a healthy sleeping pattern can positively impact your mental and physical health, did you know that having a nap during the daytime can impact depression? However, more research is needed to determine exactly why. The study suggests that both daytime napping and excessive television consumption could be proxies for sedentary behavior which would then impact your mental health.

    The goal of this study was to provide actionable information on preventing and avoiding depression symptoms.

    The research on depression and various mental health conditions has been ramping up and along with it, there will hopefully be more answers to these questions. As for this study, researchers explain that they wanted to leave readers with actionable advice on daily habits that could be contributing to their depressive symptoms.

    "Depression takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society, yet we still know very little about how to prevent it," said Smoller in an interview. "We hope this work will motivate further efforts to develop actionable strategies for preventing depression."

    This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

    A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

    Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
    Surprising Science
    • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
    • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
    • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

    First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

    Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

    All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

    BepiColombo

    Image source: European Space Agency

    The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

    Into and out of Earth's shadow

    In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

    The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

    In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

    When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

    Magentosphere melody

    The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

    BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

    MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

    Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

    Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
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