Moving towards a population health approach to the primary prevention of common mental disorders

Abstract

There is a need for the development of effective universal preventive approaches to the common mental
disorders, depression and anxiety, at a population level. Poor diet, physical inactivity and smoking have long been
recognized as key contributors to the high prevalence noncommunicable diseases. However, there are now an
increasing number of studies suggesting that the same modifiable lifestyle behaviors are also risk factors for
common mental disorders. In this paper we point to the emerging data regarding lifestyle risk factors for common
mental disorders, with a particular focus on and critique of the newest evidence regarding diet quality. On the
basis of this most recent evidence, we consequently argue for the inclusion of depression and anxiety in the ranks
of the high prevalence noncommunicable diseases influenced by habitual lifestyle practices. We believe that it is
both feasible and timely to begin to develop effective, sustainable, population-level prevention initiatives for the
common mental illnesses that build on the established and developing approaches to the noncommunicable
somatic diseases.

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