1. People with a strong social support network are less likely to suffer from depression
People with a strong social support network are less likely to suffer from depression, research shows. The study found that people who lack social support and those who have only one source of emotional support were more likely to be depressed.
Dr Lisa Jaremka, study co-author said: “People with depression have a distorted view of themselves and they are also isolated from others.”
This combination can lead to an increase in depressive symptoms – especially during the winter months – because lack of social contact increases feelings of loneliness, she added.
Researchers looked at how the seasons affect depression in more than 3,000 people.
Dr Jaremka said: “We found that participants who had a lack of social support and very little contact with family and friends were four times as likely to become depressed compared to those who had more numerous sources of emotional support.”
2. People should avoid all mind-altering substances to increase their chances of preventing depression
People should avoid all mind-altering substances to increase their chances of preventing depression, researchers say.
Despite the stigma attached with illicit drug use, many people have a drink or smoke cannabis in an attempt to alleviate feelings of distress and unhappiness, the study found.
But instead of self-medicating, people should seek out treatment as soon as possible, researchers said.
Dr Matthew Kreuter, lead author of the study, said: “Many people use mind-altering substances to cope with difficult emotions and life challenges – which can actually worsen symptoms over time.”
The US research involved more than 800 adults with an average age of 32. Participants were asked to describe their experiences with substance use, including cannabis and alcohol use.
Dr Kreuter said: “Although our study was not designed to explain why people choose to self-medicate or why people become addicted to substances like tobacco and marijuana, using these drugs can lead to unhealthy coping strategies in the long-term.”
3. The risk of depression increases when people try to avoid negative thoughts
The risk of depression increases when people try to avoid negative thoughts, research suggests.
People who struggle with anxiety may attempt to reduce their vulnerability by avoiding certain situations or activities that make them feel uncomfortable.
But this strategy can actually increase symptoms of depression, according to the study.
Researchers from the University of Chicago conducted a series of experiments involving more than 100 people. They looked at how many negative thoughts each person had in a given day and asked them how they coped with those situations.
People who tended to avoid negative thoughts or dwelled on them were more likely to feel depressed than those who did not, the findings showed.
Dr Adam Waytz, senior author of the study, said: “Psychologists have long believed that this strategy makes people vulnerable to depression and anxiety by keeping them focused on threats and disadvantages.”
The US researchers also found that a person’s ability to think of positive things – called ‘cognitive reappraisal’ – has a protective effect against depression.
4. People who feel guilty about past mistakes are more likely to develop symptoms of depression
People who feel guilty about past mistakes are more likely to develop symptoms of depression, research suggests.
20 participants were asked to assess a number of hypothetical scenarios, such as missing a train or plane. They were then asked to evaluate how they would feel in the situation and whether they would experience depressive symptoms afterwards.
People who felt guilty after recalling previous mistakes were more likely to report depression than those who did not dwell on their past errors, according to the study.
Dr Andrew Ryder, lead author of the study, said: “This is something therapists should be aware of when working with individuals suffering from depression.”
The US research also found that people who ruminate on their guilt – constantly thinking about why they were wrong and how they could have done better – are more likely to experience depressive symptoms than those who do not.
5. Even a brief period of depression may cause long-term changes in the brain
Even a brief period of depression may cause long-term changes in the brain, research suggests.
A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that people who had experienced a depressive episode 100 to 200 days previously still showed changes in brain activity.
The US research involved 44 adults with an average age of 25. Participants were asked about any previous episodes of depression, and underwent a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan.
Those who reported that they experienced a depressive episode between 100 and 200 days beforehand had less activity in the left front of their brain. This is associated with poorer attention, less-effective problem solving and reduced motivation, the researchers said.
6. People who feel tired during the day are more likely to develop depression
People who feel tired during the day are more likely to develop depression, research suggests.
A study of more than 1,000 children and adolescents found that those with depressive symptoms were three times more likely to feel extremely tired during the day.
The UK research also found that people who reported longstanding fatigue had four times the risk of depression when compared to those without fatigue.
Dr Ian Gotlib, author of the study, said: “In the future, we need more research to determine how fatigue relates to other risk factors that might predict depression.”
People who were obese or had a chronic illness were also at significantly higher risk of depressive symptoms, according to the study.
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Do you have experience in dealing with depression? How did you overcome it? What do you think are the most important things to know about depression?