Study Finds that Daughters of Mothers Who Lead Healthy Lives Are Less Likely to Develop Depression – But What About Sons?

Study Finds that Daughters of Mothers Who Lead Healthy Lives Are Less Likely to Develop Depression – But What About Sons?

According to a large scale new study published in Psychological Medicine, mothers with healthier lifestyles may have daughters that present fewer symptoms of depression on average.

The apparent reason why these two factors are related is the daughters end up leading healthier lives as well as a result.

However, the same link was not found in mothers and sons.

The past few years have seen a serious increase in depression among teenagers.

Furthermore, around 50 percent of teens with depression are also diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders.

In the case of adults, depression is actually one of the main causes of disability in the world so the whole situation is quite concerning overall.

Of course, there are some biological factors that play a role when it comes to someone’s risk of developing depression but more and more studies show that lifestyle factors are able to decrease the risk of depression.

Wei-Chen Wang and others involved in the study say that “A healthy diet, not smoking, keeping physically active, having a normal BMI, and light to moderate alcohol consumption are independently associated with less depressive symptoms among adults.”

The team of scientists wished to find out whether or not the lifestyle mothers lead while raising their children plays any role in their risk of depression during their teenage years.

As for how they defined a “healthy lifestyle” the parameters included having a normal BMI, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, being active and light to moderate alcohol consumption.

The large research included the data of no less than 10,368 mothers, all of whom were nurses who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II which began in 1989 and has collected useful data many different times since.

13,478 of their offspring, all of whom were participants in the Growing Up Today study, were also analyzed for the sake of the study.

At the start of data collection the mothers included were between the ages of 25 and 45.

Every two years, the participants were required to complete questionnaires on their weight, height and smoking habits.

Two separate questionnaires, one on their food intake and another on alcohol intake were also included.

Using this data, the researchers calculated the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 diet score consisting of “the information on vegetables, nuts, fruit, whole grains, and legumes, long chain omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, sugar sweetened drinks, and fruit juice, red and processed meat, trans fats, and sodium consumption.”

Their activity levels were also assessed through yet another questionnaire that asked for the time the mothers spent doing a variety of physical activities.

As for the offspring, their depressive symptoms were determine by using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale-10 on 5 different occasions between 2010 and 2016.

Finally, their height, physical activity levels, weight, diet types and smoking were also included in order to properly assess their lifestyles.

And sure enough, as mentioned before, the mothers with healthier lifestyles tended to raise offspring with lower depression scores on average but this only seemed to be the case in daughters, the same link not being observed in sons.

The study’s authors concluded that “Offspring of mothers with healthier lifestyles adhere to healthier lifestyles later in life. There are several mechanisms underlying this long term impact of maternal lifestyle. One is through the role modeling process; when children adopt their parents’ behaviors when establishing their own. Apart from parents passively influencing their kids’ behaviors, parenting style, monitoring, and content may also considerably impact offspring’s healthy lifestyles throughout childhood, teenage years, and even adulthood through guidance and joint activities.”


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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