Abstract: Many lifestyle behaviors such as diet, exercise, and sleep are related to physical and mental health. However, very little research has been done on the day-to-day influence of these activities on both psychological distress (PD) and more holistic conceptions of overall well-being. This study seeks to investigate the patterns of common lifestyle behaviors and their relationships with daily PD and well-being. The central research questions are 1) what lifestyle behaviors are associated with PD and well-being, and 2) do the seven lifestyle behaviors predict the three outcome variables at different degrees of strength? Seventy-six adult participants were recruited online and completed daily diary surveys about their participation in a variety of lifestyle behaviors, PD symptoms, and well-being for up to 14 days. The data were analyzed using multilevel modeling to illuminate the day-to-day fluctuations in variables that cannot be explored in cross-sectional or large-interval longitudinal research. Examining multiple lifestyle behaviors simultaneously in these exploratory analyses allowed for a comparison of their relative impact on distress and well-being, thus revealing those behaviors that have the greatest average association with PD and well-being. At the within-person level, time spent in social interaction was the most consistent predictor of PD and well-being. Consumption of fruits and vegetables and exercise also generally positively predicted well-being. Depending on the model, time spent outside, meditation and alcohol intake were also occasionally associated with the dependent variables. T-tests revealed some differences in the strengths of the associations and with social interaction being a stronger positive predictor of well-being relative to other lifestyle behaviors. This project built on other early investigations into daily activities and well-being and the results may inform the development of future lifestyle interventions.
Citation: Anderson, A. R., & Fowers, B. J. (2020). A daily diary study of lifestyle behaviors, psychological distress, and well-being. Social Science & Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113263