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Approved Research

Relationship between lifestyle and cardiometabolic function with mental health

Principal Investigator: Dr Cynthia Kroeger
Approved Research ID: 67082
Approval date: January 11th 2021

Lay summary

Psychopathology and inflammation are closely intertwined in what seems to be a bidirectional loop. This relationship is perhaps made more complicated by modifiable lifestyle factors, such as diets that contain large amounts of animal and energy-dense foods, together with a sedentary lifestyle and smoking. Further, the way the medical field currently organises mental disorders into discrete entities with thresholds, may not explain the frequency of co-occurring disorders, varying degrees of severity, or different symptoms for the same diagnosis. Conceptualising mental health in higher order dimensions, such as by combining symptoms from mood and anxiety disorders into a broader "internalizing" dimension, may improve validity and clinical utility when studying complex relationships among psychopathology, lifestyle, and biological markers of disease.

Some benefits of this dataset are its large size, high-quality measures of cardiometabolic function, and longitudinal assessment of mental health. The dietary and physical activity data, along with information on sleep and smoking behaviour, will be combined to create a Healthy Lifestyle Score. Using this score, we aim to investigate the following:

1. What is the relationship between the Healthy Lifestyle Score, cardiometabolic function, and mental health. The reason we want to measure this is because mental health status may be heavily influenced by lifestyle and physiological factors.

2. How does the Healthy Lifestyle Score and cardiometabolic function predict mental health status over time. The UK Biobank gives researchers access to longitudinal data on mental health. Together with individual medical records, we will have rich data to better understand the relationship between cardiometabolic and mental health over time.

3. How does experience with past psychosocial adversities affect the relationship between Healthy Lifestyle Score, cardiometabolic function, and mental health. Research suggests that past trauma can exacerbate mental health conditions. The UK Biobank will allow us to investigate how lifestyle and physiological factors contribute to this relationship.

4. How does experience with indices of environmental deprivation affect the relationship between Healthy Lifestyle Score, cardiometabolic function, and mental health. We think living in deprived areas may impact mental health in a way that is similar to past trauma and want to see whether this environmental deprivation moderates the relationship between lifestyle and physiological factors in a similar way.

 This project will highlight whether efforts should be directed towards preventative strategies, such as encouraging and prescribing healthy lifestyle behaviours, and help identify vulnerable people who would benefit from targeted support. This project will take 2 years.