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Poor mental health is a state of psychological distress that is influenced by lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, and physical activity. Compulsivity is a transdiagnostic phenotype cutting across a range of mental illnesses including obsessive–compulsive disorder, substance-related and addictive disorders, and is also influenced by lifestyle. Yet, how lifestyle relates to compulsivity is presently unknown, but important to understand to gain insights into individual differences in mental health. We assessed (a) the relationships between compulsivity and diet quality, sleep quality, and physical activity, and (b) whether psychological distress statistically contributes to these relationships.
We collected harmonized data on compulsivity, psychological distress, and lifestyle from two independent samples (Australian n = 880 and US n = 829). We used mediation analyses to investigate bidirectional relationships between compulsivity and lifestyle factors, and the role of psychological distress.
Higher compulsivity was significantly related to poorer diet and sleep. Psychological distress statistically mediated the relationship between poorer sleep quality and higher compulsivity, and partially statistically mediated the relationship between poorer diet and higher compulsivity.
Lifestyle interventions in compulsivity may target psychological distress in the first instance, followed by sleep and diet quality. As psychological distress links aspects of lifestyle and compulsivity, focusing on mitigating and managing distress may offer a useful therapeutic approach to improve physical and mental health. Future research may focus on the specific sleep and diet patterns which may alter compulsivity over time to inform lifestyle targets for prevention and treatment of functionally impairing compulsive behaviors.
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