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Leisure time activities can prevent or reduce the symptoms of depression by a third.

Do you know anyone who is interested in something specific like surfing, painting, a collection or model trains? Research from University College London suggests that engaging in a hobby can be an important bulwark against depression.

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A large-scale study.

Data are from 8,780 adults over the age of 50 years from The English Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ELSA), a longitudinal study that collects data from a representative sample of the English population aged 50 years and older. 72% of study participants reported having a hobby, and 15.6% were considered to be at the cut-off point for depression on a national epidemiological scale.

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During the period examined, from 2004 to 2017, having a hobby reduced the risk of developing depression by about 30%. The effects were observed in both men and women, and were consistent in those who had depressive symptoms before the study period began and developed them afterwards.

he results are striking.

By examining the data, the researchers found that if people who do not suffer from depression or who do not have hobbies engaged in hobbies, they would have a 32% lower chance of developing symptoms of depression.

Surprisingly, their research also found that people with depression who took up a hobby had improved symptoms – and a 272% greater chance of recovering from it.

A hobby can also be a pastime.

In terms of what in the study constituted a “hobby”, they used previously established research and included such things as arts and crafts (such as painting or sewing), volunteer work, carpentry and music.

This research is the first to examine leisure over time as a defence against depression, rather than at a fixed point in someone’s life. But perhaps most important about leisure is that improvement or protection against depressive symptoms is not related to social interaction, which means that someone who does puzzles in their basement for 4 hours probably benefits as much from the effect as those who do a group activity.

Enjoying life.

Researchers have suggested that this could be used as a “social prescription”, an intervention often needed for those with mild to moderate symptoms of depression, for whom pharmaceutical solutions often prove ineffective.

Recently, an English university in Cornwall discovered that during the period of confinement when travel is suspended, planning a trip can have a measurable effect on the relief of depressive symptoms, as it represents a bit of “light at the end of the tunnel” but also the kind of activity that promises future pleasure while providing immediate relief.

Connecting with nature.

A 2019 study suggests that a 20-minute breath of fresh air can reduce levels of a hormone called cortisol that prepares us for stressful situations, but unsurprisingly also causes anxiety.

Dr. Mary Carol Hunter, a professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, said: “Our study shows that to achieve the best result, in terms of effectively reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you need to spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or standing in a place that makes you feel good. In short, nature, travel or music are excellent ways to indulge in a hobby and help reduce the symptoms of depression.

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