Public Release: 

Community activities could help tackle depression in low-income countries

Atlas Award-winning study in Journal of Affective Disorders shows link between depression and sedentary behavior is strongest in cities

Elsevier

New York, February 5, 2019

Getting people involved in community activities like playing games and social events could be a low-cost way to tackle depression in the developing world, according to a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Sedentary behavior is on the rise around the world and has been linked to a whole host of problems, including heart disease and stroke, to diabetes and premature death. It's now clear that being inactive is also linked to depression, which is a growing issue in low- and middle-income countries, where sedentary behavior is on the rise.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Davy Vancampfort, from KU Leuven in Belgium, says the new study highlights a need to take a new approach to mental and physical health in the developing world. "I think that in the future if we want more evidence-based healthcare in low-income countries, we need to bring these two different aspects of medicine together in a holistic health care model, which is currently absent in low-income countries," added Dr. Vancampfort.

Dr. Vancampfort and his international team of colleagues around the world show that sedentary behavior in individuals with depression is linked to lower levels of social cohesion, due to a low level of involvement in community and social activities. Their work has been selected by an international scientific committee to be given the Atlas award.

In a previous study, researchers looked at the impact of sedentary behavior on depression. They split participants into two groups: one group had to continue with their normal behavior; while the other group were asked to be sedentary for a period of one week. In the group asked to be sedentary, the level of depression increased significantly; when members of the second group changed back to their normal active behavior, depression rates dropped immediately.

This led Dr. Vancampfort to the idea that addressing sedentary behavior would be an effective way to tackle depression. Using data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the team studied 2,375 people with depression in six low- and middle-income countries. More than 11 percent of people were highly sedentary, meaning they were inactive for at least eight hours a day.

Notably, one factor strongly associated was a lack of involvement in community and social activities. There was also a strong link between depression and sedentary behavior in more urban settings, and this could be an increasing problem. In low-income countries, people are moving to cities, where they can afford a more sedentary lifestyle: they have more sedentary jobs and they can afford motorized transport. Identifying the link between depression, sedentary behavior and community activity in the city provides a solution.

"We're trying to invite people to join social activity programs in a non-stigmatized environment," said Dr. Vancampfort. "I think one step is having more community activities in centers within big cities. There should be physical activities, sitting together, culture-sensitive activities, playing cards, playing games. I think that's the way forward."

The next step for the research is to carry out longitudinal studies to determine whether sedentary behavior is causing depression or vice-versa. Ultimately, Dr. Vancampfort's aim is to promote a more holistic approach to healthcare in low- and middle-income countries, due to the strong link between mental and physical health.

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Notes for editors
The article is "Correlates of sedentary behavior in 2,375 people with depression from 6 low- and middle-income countries," by Davy Vancampfort, Brendon Stubbs, James Mugisha, Joseph Firth, Felipe B. Schuch, and Ai Koyanagi (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2018.02.088 ). It appears in Journal of Affective Disorders, published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Elsevier's Newsroom at newsroom@elsevier.com.

About Journal of Affective Disorders
The Journal of Affective Disorders publishes research on depression, mania, mood spectrum, emotions and personality, anxiety and stress. It is interdisciplinary and covers papers dealing with any aspect of affective disorders, including neuroimaging, genetics, experimental and clinical neurosciences, pharmacology, intervention and treatment trials.

About Atlas, Research for a better world
Science impacts everyone's world. With over 1,800 journals publishing articles from across science, technology and health, our mission is to share some of the stories that matter. Each month Atlas will showcase research that can (or already has) significantly impact people's lives around the world and we hope that bringing wider attention to this research will go some way to ensuring its successful implementation.

With so many worthy articles published the tough job of selecting a single article to be awarded "The Atlas" each month comes down to an Advisory Board. The winning research is presented alongside interviews, expert opinions, multimedia and much more on the Atlas website: http://www.elsevier.com/connect/atlas.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals advance healthcare, open science and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support and professional education, including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 38,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries. http://www.elsevier.com

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Elsevier
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j.awedick@elsevier.com

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