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Housework Yields no Mental Health Benefits in Preventing Depression

Update Date: Sep 11, 2014 10:15 AM EDT

In a new study, researchers set out to examine the link between housework and mental health benefits. Since housework has often been equated to exercising and exercising has been tied to improving brain health, housework should ideally also benefit mental health. However, the team from Deakin University's Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) discovered that housework provides no mental stimulation at all when it comes to preventing depression.

"Running, swimming and gym workouts all help people stay fit and mentally healthy and people who undertake these types of exercise are less likely to suffer depression," Alfred Deakin Professor Kylie Ball said according to Medical Xpress. "But housework does not engender the same mental health benefits and shows no protective effects against symptoms of depression."

Ball worked with Dr. Megan Teychenne to conduct two studies to examine the link between physical activity and depressive symptoms. In the first study, the team surveyed 1,554 women and collected information on their physical activity levels. The women were between the ages of 18 and 65. The survey was funded by the National Heart Foundation of Australia. In the second study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the team surveyed 3,645 women who were from 80 Victorian neighborhoods that were considered socioeconomically disadvantaged.

"Little research has been put in to what type of physical activity is most beneficial to good mental health and little is known about the optimal domain, dose and social context of physical activity for reducing the risk of depression," Ball said. "People living in disadvantaged neighborhoods are less likely to be regularly physically active than those from wealthier neighborhoods, which is why these areas were targeted in this study."

The researchers found that women who reported being physically active during leisure time had a lower likelihood of suffering from depressive symptoms. However, when the researchers examined the factor of housework only, they found that the women did not have a reduced risk of depressive symptoms. Housework included dusting, vacuuming and scrubbing.

"Our studies confirm previous findings that showed women's moods were generally better when they were getting a workout in their leisure time," Ball stated.

Even though housework can be considered physical activity, the researchers concluded that if people want to exercise both their bodies and minds, they are better off doing it during their leisure time.

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