On 5 July 2023, MQ Mental Health Research invites you to celebrate Research Appreciation Day. On this day we shine a light on just how important research and researchers are to enhance our world, improve our lives and our understanding of how to make things better for us all.
Everything we do can be improved with research. Collecting data gives us more information to help us make smarter choices. With smarter choices we can improve our lives, the world and the future for everyone.
So here are 5 things to think about on 5 July, things many of us do every day, that we know more about thanks to research.
Humans need food to survive and our relationship to food is nuanced and can be complicated. From how often to eat during the day to mental illnesses like eating disorders, research can help us understand our relationship with food and how we can improve it.
This study looked at the regularity of meal patterns, how often and how much we need to eat to remain healthy. According to these researchers, 2 to 3 meals a day might lead to reduced inflammation, improved circadian rhythm, increased stress resistance and even positive changes in our gut health. And this 2019 study suggests that as well as the amount and quality of food we eat, when we eat has significant benefits.
And there are even studies that focus on one meal of the day. This 2018 study focuses purely on the benefits of eating breakfast and the impact of skipping the supposedly most important meal of the day.
Many people have their own theories about how often to eat and how much to eat but thanks to research we can stop hypothesising and be armed with the facts about how different bodies work with different foods.
Whether it’s the effects of sleep deprivation, the optimal number of hours to sleep or the power of naps, sleep is something everybody needs therefore researchers have been looking into it for a long time.
Type of sleep also affects how our minds work. Research suggests sleep plays a role in the way our minds process memories of the recent past and that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep plays a vital and complicated role in emotional-memory processing. That then suggests how emotionally reactive we are and how safe we feel day to day comes from how deeply we sleep.
Sleep deprivation is common among university students, and has been associated with poor academic performance and physical dysfunction. However, findings in one study indicated that while acute sleep deprivation can have an impact on physical ability, it did not affect cognitive ability in young healthy university students. And this study showed that while 8 to 10 hours sleep is optimal, many who only get 6 or 7 hours sleep do not experience an impact.
While for years 8 to 10 hours was the advised duration for optimal sleep, many studies have repeatedly found that 6 or 7 hours sleep works just as well. However, this 2018 paper states categorically that sleep needs are individual and change throughout our lifetime, that there is no “magic number” for the ideal duration of sleep. However, it also says clearly that sleep “should receive the same level of attention as nutrition and exercise in the package for good health.”
As this study says, there has been confusion for decades about how much water people need to drink to stay healthy. This is because there are gaps in evidence and it’s hard to ascertain honest and truthful data when it comes to plain water consumption. Many people tend to not be mindful of how much water they drink and how frequently.
Quality of drinking water affects our health, research shows. Human health is massively impacted by the quality and storage of drinking water. Before proper research had been conducted, cholera and dysentery would be common causes of death in Britain and America. A 19th century researcher called John Snow, a famous anesthesiologist, was known for linking cholera with contaminated water sources. Without research people would’ve kept dying from the disease.
Socialising is great for our mental health. Research has shown that chatting regularly with support networks helps us manage or even reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additional studies have shown that being socially connected has a greater impact on mental health than mental health has on being socially connected and even goes so far as to say that being social could be seen as a ‘social cure’ to mental health.
Friendships in childhood have a huge effect on who we develop into as a person, as demonstrated in studies. Our well-being and brain development are improved with socialising at a young age partly because they help our brain learn through reward and motivation as well as how to interact with other people and ourselves.
Research has also shown that the qualities of our friendships also has an effect on our health. Friendships that are reliable, helpful and focus on personal growth affect our health positively.
Connecting with others is a great way to destress. Read our seven tips to destress your life including chatting with friends.
Many adults work and research shows us how we can work most effectively, productively and healthily. There are many stressful industries to work within. In fact, in a 2020 survey of British adults in employment, 79% commonly experienced work-related stress, 20% higher than in 2018. 1% of UK employed adults say they ‘never’ experience workplace stress, while 17% ‘rarely’ experience stress of this kind.
In the same survey ‘work-related office politics’ (37%) were the most common cause of work-related stress, followed by ‘lack of interdepartmental communications’ (34%), and ‘the work performance of others’ (33%).
Research has once again shone a light on workplace stress, which means we can start to address it and change things. Work-related stress causes the UK economy £28billion a year, a 2023 survey found. A survey of 30,000 adults across 16 nations revealed that Britain was the most impacted of the evaluated countries.
Thankfully there are many ways employers can help reduce workplace stress. Read our article to find out more.
Find out more about Research Appreciation Day.
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