The next section explores the complementary benefits of healthy eating and being active for promoting mental health and wellbeing and building social connections.
Mental health benefits
- Adopting healthy behaviours early in life reduces the risk of overweight and obesity – being a healthy weight has a positive effect on mental health and supports children to thrive.1
- Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of parents can have a significant and lasting benefit to the mental health and wellbeing of their children.2
- Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, and low in non-core food and drinks is associated with better mental health among both children and adults.1
- Outdoor family time, such as pram walking and active play, creates opportunities for physical activity and offers additional mental health benefits through social and community connection.
- Healthy eating and being active (at least 60 minutes per week) can reduce the risk of depression among adults.3 This is important during the perinatal period, as one in five mothers and one in ten fathers in Australia may experience depression and anxiety.4
Building social connection
- INFANT helps to connect new parents, providing social and community connection – the group-based format of INFANT is a “relaxed, friendly environment that encourage(s) peer discussion, social connections and trust.”5
“I find if parents are able to share their ideas and what has worked for them, they are often more likely to believe and take on ideas from their peers than an “expert” so encouraging this sort of discussion is a really important part of programs.” – INFANT training participant.
- Engaging new parents in early parenting programs connects families with local health services and can help them to access other services at the right time.
“There are so many isolated young mums out there. So I really try and hone in on the playgroup aspect and all the different services… like there’s been one lady, she sort of needed a little bit of extra support, and I sort of said to her that I thought it would be really good if she was to speak to her maternal health nurse and see if she could get some extra support.” – INFANT Program facilitator.
1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2020). Australia’s children. Cat. no. CWS 69. Canberra: AIHW. aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children
2. Rioseco, P., Warren, D. & Daraganova, G. (2020). Children’s social-emotional wellbeing: the role of parenting, parents’ mental health and health behaviours. Australian Institute of Family Studies: Canberra. aifs.gov.au/publications/childrens-social-emotional-wellbeing
3. Department of Health (2020). Co-benefits of a healthy lifestyle for mental wellbeing. Victorian Government: Melbourne. health.vic.gov.au/population-health-systems/co-benefits-of-a-healthy-lifestyle-for-mental-wellbeing
4. PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Australia (PwC Australia) (2019). The cost of perinatal depression and anxiety in Australia. perinatalwellbeingcentre.org.au/cost-of-perinatal-depression-and-anxiety-in-australia
5. Love, P., Laws, R., Litterbach, E., & Campbell, K. (2018). Factors Influencing Parental Engagement in an Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Program Implemented at Scale: The Infant Program. Nutrients, 10(4), 509. MDPI AG. dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu10040509
Submit a comment to share your experiences of how parenting groups such as INFANT can help to improve mental health and wellbeing and build social connection among parents. Have there been any comments from parents about benefits to their mental wellbeing or social networks as a result of attending an INFANT group program?
Read the comments from others and replies from the INFANT team. Click the ‘mark complete’ button when you’re ready, then select ‘next lesson’ for the next step.