How to Prevent and Cure Depression
Depression is becoming one of the most well known maladies of our society. Not just in the US, but worldwide.
Some of the statistics are a little scary. Over 20 million people in the US suffer from depression. And over 10% of kids aged 12-17 had a major bout of depression in 2013. It also costs us more than $80 million in lost work and productivity
According to the World Health Organization, over 350 million people in the world suffer from depression. They report that it’s a major contributor to the global burden of disease.
It makes you think a little differently about how widespread depression is. Maybe it’s more of an issue than some people would like to think.
While we might all feel a little blue from time to time, researchers have found that there’s a relatively easy way that you can reduce the risk of, and help cure, depression.
Happiness is Contagious
Researchers from the University of Warwick had a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, that looked how depression and happiness functioned in teenagers.
What made this study interesting, though, was their unique approach.
They used a mathematical model that was similar to infectious disease. They weren’t studying colds, ebola, or any type of virus. They were studying moods.
They treated happiness and depression like it was contagious. Something that can spread from person to person to see how likely kids could “infect” others.
Along with their mathematical formula, they used data from multi-year study that consisted of over 2,000 students in high school. They classified individuals in two basic categories: either having depressive symptoms or not having depressing symptoms.
The Cure for Depression
So how can we inoculate ourselves against depression?
The model showed that people who had 5 mentally healthy friends were 50 percent less likely to become depressed compared to those who had no mentally healthy friends.
Okay, so say you were depressed. Was there any chance that having mentally healthy friends would help in this case?
Indeed it did. Having healthy friends seemed to have something of a curative effect. The model showed that having 10 healthy friends would double the chance that you would recover from depressive symptoms over a 6-12 month period as compared to someone who had just 3 mentally healthy friends.
That wasn’t the only great result from the study. They also saw no indication that having friends who were depressed would increase the likelihood of getting depressive symptoms themselves. Depressive symptoms didn’t seem to spread.
Professor Griffiths from the study had this to say about the research:
“Our results offer implications for improving adolescent mood. In particular they suggest the hypothesis that encouraging friendship networks between adolescents could reduce both the incidence and prevalence of depression among teenagers.”
Depression Isn’t Disease
Obviously, depression and happiness aren’t diseases like some virus. There isn’t some “cure” in a traditional sense of the word. They’re just analogies that are helpful in understanding the phenomenon surrounding happiness and depression. They are complex topics that go beyond just this one study.
Can depression actually be prevented? That’s not really something I can answer, but you can sure reduce the chances of it happening. People can also rid themselves of that depression “funk”. And increasing your social circle might be one of the most significant factors that can help.
Thomas House, an author on the study, brings up this point as well:
“It could be that having a stronger social network is an effective way to treat depression. More work needs to be done but it may be that we could significantly reduce the burden of depression through cheap, low-risk social interventions.”
There are a lot of great ways to foster and encourage friendship. And that doesn’t just go for adolescence or children, the same is true for us adults. But we do have a responsibility to create those environments for younger generations.
Here’s Dr. House again:
“As a society, if we enable friendships to develop among adolescents (for example providing youth clubs) each adolescent is more likely to have enough friends with healthy mood to have a protective effect. This would reduce the prevalence of depression.”
If you think about the research, it’s pretty enlightening.
There’s no risk for having friends that may have depressive like moods. Having more friends only increases the likelihood that you’ll have some that are considered “mentally healthy” or that are happy. And this not only protects you against depression, but makes it easier for you to recover from any blues you might be experiencing.
So what are you waiting for. Get your depression vaccine. Go make a friend.