Diet, sleep, and bullying may affect youth mental health

Australian researchers recently published a study in the Journal of Sleep Research, showing that sleep, diet, and bullying are connected with teen mental health.

For the study, the researchers used data from the Middle Years Development Instrument, a questionnaire that includes questions about frequency of breakfast consumption, junk food consumption, bullying, and sleep frequency, and weekday bedtime. Over 27,000 Australian students between 9 and 17 years of age participated in the survey.

As researchers analyzed the questionnaire data, they discovered that there were 5 areas that seemed to have the most effect on the mental health of the survey participants:

  1. Obtaining a good night’s sleep less than 3 times a week
  2. Weeknight bedtime of after 23:00
  3. Eating breakfast less than 3 times per week
  4. Consuming junk food at least 5 times per week
  5. Being bullied many times per week

Researchers found that participants who reported at least one of the above areas doubled the odds of also reporting high sadness, high anxiety, and fair to poor health. On the other hand, participants who reported all 5 increased their odds sevenfold.

As mental health care providers move forward in treating mental health issues among youth, it’s important to find holistic approaches that address sleep, diet, and bullying issues.