An Epigenetic Perspective on Lifestyle Medicine for Depression: Implications for Primary Care Practice

Jenny Sunghyun Lee, Paresh Atu Jaini, Frank Papa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Depression is the most common presenting mental health disorder in primary care. It is also a major contributor to somatic complaints, worsening of chronic medical conditions, poor quality of life, and suicide. Current pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic approaches avert less than half of depression’s cumulative burden on society. However, there is a growing body of research describing both how maladaptive lifestyle choices contribute to the development and worsening of depression and how lifestyle-oriented medical interventions can reduce the incidence and severity of depression. This research, largely derived from an emerging field called epigenetics, elucidates the interactions between our lifestyle choices and those epigenetic factors which mediate our tendencies toward either health, or the onset, if not worsening of disease. The present review highlights how lifestyle choices involving diet, physical activity, sleep, social relationships, and stress influence epigenetic processes positively or negatively, and thereby play a significant role in determining whether one does or does not suffer from depression. The authors propose that medical training programs consider and adopt lifestyle medicine oriented instructional initiatives that will enable tomorrow’s primary care providers to more effectively identify and therapeutically intervene in the maladaptive choices contributing to their patients’ depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-88
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Lifestyle Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • depression
  • epigenetics
  • lifestyle medicine
  • primary care


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