Social Connections Reduce Depression

social connectionsBelonging to a social group does not only help alleviate depression, but it also helps to prevent relapse.[1] The closer the ties a person has to a social group, the better the results.1

Psychologists Dr. Alexander Haslam and Dr. Tegan Cruwys gathered a team of researchers from the University of Queensland and conducted two studies of patients who were diagnosed with depression and anxiety.1 For the study, the patients joined either a community group—who partook in activities such as sewing, yoga, sports, and art—or group therapy at a psychiatric hospital.1 Researchers found that patients from both groups who did not identify with the social group they belonged to were 50 percent likely to experience continued depression a month later.1

However, a third of those who developed a strong connection with their group and began to view the group as an “us” rather than a “them,” were found to have achieved remission.1 These patients stated that the group made them feel supported, as everyone was in this fight together.1

“We were able to find clear evidence that joining groups, and coming to identify with them, can alleviate depression,” said Haslam. “Our work shows that the ‘group’ aspect of social interaction is critical.”1

Past research has also studied the importance of social connections for treating and preventing depression; however, it has always tended to emphasize interpersonal relationships rather than the importance of a sense of group identity.1 This study has supported the reasons why group therapy at treatment centers actually works.1

Therefore, the next questions to investigate are what factors actually encourage people to engage in groups and internalize its identity, as well as how this leads them to develop a sense of support, belonging, purpose, and meaning.1 According to Haslam, this is likely to involve both group and individual factors.1 For example, how accommodating the group is and how the group fits in with the person’s understanding of themselves and the world is likely to play a large role.1

“The group is a major source of encouragement, but it has also helped to hone our questions in important ways—so that we have asked the right questions and looked in the right places for answers,” said Haslam.1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Social Connections Can Help to Reduce Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/20/social-connections-can-help-to-reduce-depression/67371.html

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