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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Mental Health Channel
Reported February 5, 2013

Anxiety to Blame for Bad Health Choices?


(Ivanhoe Newswire) –According to a new study, unhealthy behaviors may just be the way low-income individuals cope with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. 
Researchers measured levels of depression, anxiety, and stress in 482 adults who were getting treatment at a sexually transmitted infection clinic. Participants took an online interview five times throughout the study; once at the start of the study then again three, six, nine, and twelve months later. The interview was used to analyze participants’ typical behaviors including substance abuse, exercise, and sexual, dietary, and sleep patterns. 
Not only did researchers find that participants with low incomes were more likely to have symptoms of anxiety or depression and a higher number of unhealthy behaviors, but the anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms could be used to predict later unhealthy life choices. 
Why low income participants demonstrated this trend and participants with higher incomes did not is still unclear, but study researchers believe the unhealthy behaviors are a way to cope with feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression. 
This comes as no surprise for anyone who has reached for a cigarette after a bad day or stress-eaten a tub of ice cream, but realizing the problem may help you resist.
For the medical community, understanding this relationship between mental health and unhealthy behaviors will aid in treating people for not only the immediate problem, but also the underlying cause. 
"Clinicians and practitioners should recognize that there may be high rates of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as health-compromising behaviors, in low-income populations, and they should assess mental health as well as these behaviors,” the study authors were quoted as saying. 
Source: Translational Behavioral Medicine, February 2013


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