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16 May 2018, 10:50 | Lena Norman
Image for representational purpose only
It found that increased activity during rest periods and/or inactivity during the day are also associated with mood instability, more subjective loneliness, lower happiness and health satisfaction, and worse cognitive function. With the data, circadian relative amplitude, which is a measure of the extent to which circadian rhythmicity of rest-activity cycles is disrupted, was evaluated. "However, these are observational associations and can not tell us whether mood disorders and reduced well-being cause disturbed rest-activity patterns, or whether disturbed circadian rhythmicity makes people vulnerable to mood disorders and poorer well-being".
Our 24-hour biological body clock governs the fundamental physiological and behavioural functions including from body temperature to eating habits in nearly all organisms. Disruption of these rhythms has been shown to profoundly affect human health.
Greater disease risks arising from this disruption have been identified in the brain, pancreas and stress systems.
Researchers wanted to see if disruptions to the 24-hour "body clock" of rest and activity (circadian rhythm) had an impact on mental health. The individuals wore an activity-tracker on their wrist for a week between 2013 and 2015.
They had also filled in questionnaires about their mood when first recruited between 2006 and 2010, and filled in an online questionnaire about their mental health in 2016.
The study is both important and useful because it included so many people, used an objective measure of activity, and was able to take into account potential confounding factors such as age, deprivation and childhood trauma. It was also associated with decreased happiness and health satisfaction, and a higher risk of reporting loneliness.
The researchers said their results showed that: "Lower circadian relative amplitude [day/night activity] was associated with greater risk of mood disorders and poorer subjective wellbeing".
"People who are active during the day and sleep well at night, that is a very healthy profile [.] they would have a high score in relative amplitude", he told The Guardian.
Those who are inactive during the day and more active or restless at night have an increased risk of depression, bipolar disorder and low mood.
The largest study of its kind, involving more than 91,000 people, also linked interference with the body's "circadian rhythm" to a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and attention span.
Writing in journalThe Lancet Psychiatry, Dr Aiden Doherty, senior research fellow from the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Population Health, said a next step could be to carry out further research on younger people. "It might be that the UK Biobank provides the template and impetus for a resource of a similar scale in adolescents and younger adults to help transform our understanding of the causes and consequences, prevention, and treatment of mental health disorders". "That's not a big surprise", said Dr. Daniel Smith, professor of psychiatry at the University of Glasgow and a leading author on the study.
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