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Your friends can ward off your risk of depression, according to this study

Published on:17 August 2020, 17:43pm IST
Turns out, being connected to your friends and family while avoiding watching too much television can reduce your risk of depression.
Team Health Shots
Find yourself some trustworthy friends to keep yourself mentally healthy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

You must remember a popular advertisement reminding you that “har ek friend zaroori hota hai!” Well, there is legitimate proof that having a strong social connection is a must for everyone because it keeps you away from mental health issues such as depression.

Recent research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that social connection is the strongest protection against depression. It has noted that factors such as watching TV for too long, indulging in prolonged napping during the day, and following a sedentary lifestyle can increase the chances of depression.

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This is how they find the correlation between social connections and depression
Researchers have identified a set of modifiable factors from a field of over 100 that could represent valuable targets for preventing depression in adults.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but until now researchers have focused on only a handful of risks and protective factors, often in just one or two domains,” says Karmel Choi, Ph.D., an investigator in the Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of the paper. 

Friendship
All your friends are important. Hold on to them. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“Our study provides the most comprehensive picture to date of modifiable factors that could impact depression risk”, he continued.

The researchers systematically scan a wide range of modifiable factors that might be associated with the risk of developing depression, including social interaction, media use, sleep patterns, diet, physical activity, and environmental exposures.

Mendelian randomization (MR) was used to investigate which factors may have a causal relationship to depression risk. MR is a statistical method that treats genetic variation between people as a kind of natural experiment to determine whether an association is likely to reflect causation rather than just correlation.

Building a bond with your family can also keep depression away, says the study
“The most prominent of these factors was not only the frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion,” points out Jordan Smoller, MD, Associate Chief for research in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, and senior author of the study.

“These factors are more relevant now than ever at a time of social distancing and separation from friends and family.”

The protective effects of social connection were present even for individuals who were at a higher risk for depression as a result of genetic vulnerability or early life trauma.

The study delved deeper into some factors associated with depression
You’ll be shocked to read what this study found out. These are the factors associated with depression risk which include time spent watching TV, though the authors note that additional research is needed to determine if that risk was due to media exposure particularly, or whether time in front of the TV was a proxy for being sedentary.

Moreover, the tendency for daytime napping and regular use of multivitamins appeared to be associated with depression risk as well, though more research is needed to determine how these might contribute.

The study demonstrates an important new approach for evaluating a wide range of modifiable factors and using this evidence to prioritize targets for preventive interventions for depression.

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Depression takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society, yet we still know very little about how to prevent it,” says Smoller. “We’ve shown that it’s now possible to address these questions of broad public health significance through a large-scale, data-based approach that wasn’t available even a few years ago. We hope this work will motivate further efforts to develop actionable strategies for preventing depression.”

The study’s two-stage approach could also be used to inform the prevention of other health conditions.

(With inputs for ANI)

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