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Social Support Can Be Key To Preventing Depression

Social Support Can Be Key To Preventing Depression

 

When things get tough, it's always a good idea to reach out to someone for support. But did you know that social support can be especially crucial for those who are genetically predisposed to depression? Studies have shown that doctors in their first year of practice and older adults who have lost a spouse are at a higher risk of depression due to the stress and trauma they experience. Imagine the pressure of being a new doctor, working long and irregular hours, being away from loved ones, and barely getting any sleep. Or the sudden loneliness and heartache of losing a spouse. It's no wonder these groups are more susceptible to depression.

But here's the thing - even within these groups, some doctors and widows have a higher risk of depression due to their genetic makeup. It's this kind of people (with a higher genetic risk of depression) that enjoy the greatest benefit from social support.

Compared to their colleagues with lower genetic risk of depression, the doctors and widows with higher genetic risk scores suffered more severe depression symptoms. However, when they have support during these tough times, their depression rates drop dramatically. Isn't that amazing?

But it gets even more interesting. Read on!

Genetics, depression, social support, and the crossover effect

It's true; some people are more vulnerable to depression than others. Aside from environmental, circumstantial, and emotional experiences, recent DNA studies show that some people are more prone to major depression due to their unique genes.

But the good news is, having social connections (loved ones you could talk to) during those trying times can prevent an at-risk person from suffering from depression.

Now, let's get to the most interesting part yet:

In older adults with a genetic risk of depression, depression symptoms increased by 34% after losing their spouse. For the intern doctors, depression skyrocketed to a staggering 126 percent!

The reason was, while the widows had social support from friends and family while grieving, the interns were often far away from their loved ones while working. So their depression rates were far higher than in the widows, even though losing a loved one is one of the biggest stressors in life.

But here's the good news - among interns with the same high genetic risk of depression, those who had social support showed lower depression symptoms than those who had no support. That’s not all –  they even had lower depression than their peers with lower genetic risk of depression who didn't have social support during those trying times.

Scientists call this the crossover effect.

In summary, while people with higher genetic risk factors may suffer depression more during stressful times, they will have lower depression than any other person if only they have people in their lives they can connect with emotionally. So, it's important to stay connected to those we love, especially during difficult times.

When going through stress or trauma, talk to someone

What can we take from all this? It's what we've always said: social connection is key to coping with depression and many other mental issues. If you're going through stressful times, you really don't have to go it alone. Just a listening ear can help; reach out and strengthen your social connection during these times.

And if you know someone facing a critical time in their life, you don't always have to wait for them to cry out for help. Like the widows who had lower depression symptoms because loved ones came around, it's always a great idea to reach out.

 

More on the research here.

Author
Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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