How Strong Social Connections Can Help People With Depression

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Making strong connections with other people could help alleviate symptoms of depression, according to a small new study.

Researchers from the University of Queensland conducted two experiments to see how social connectedness affected symptoms of depression. In one, they had 52 study participants who were at risk for depression join a community recreation group, where they participated in activities such as sewing, art and yoga. In the other experiment, they had 92 study participants with diagnosed depression participate in group therapy at a psychiatric hospital.

For both groups, social identification -- meaning the study participants felt like they were part of the group ("us") instead of disconnected from the group ("me" versus "them") -- predicted depression recovery.

"We were able to find clear evidence that joining groups, and coming to identify with them, can alleviate depression," study researcher Alexander Haslam, who is a senior fellow affiliated with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, said in a statement.

The findings are published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The link between social connectedness and depression could apply to romantic relationships, too. Recently, a study from University of Michigan researchers showed that people who felt unsupported by their spouse were more likely to be depressed than those in more stable relationships.

 
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