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August 31, 2020 • Healthy Living

Social Connection and Depression

unhealthy brain depression
In a landmark new study that comprises the most comprehensive evaluation to date, scientists have uncovered a set of modifiable risk factors for developing depression. Depression is epidemic in America and is the #1 cause of disability worldwide. Thus, the results of this study are especially timely.
For this 2-stage evaluation, the scientists first scanned a database of 100,000 study subjects for a wide range of modifiable risk factors for depression, 106 in total. The stage-1 evaluation identified a number of factors including diet, physical activity, media use, sleep, and social connectedness as tied to a greater risk of depression. For stage-2 of the study, the scientists selected the top factors from stage-1 and subjected them to a sophisticated statistical analysis known as Mendelian randomization (MR). MR can help to identify the factors with the strongest potential for a true cause and effect relationship. Remember, associations (the results of stage-1) do not prove causation.
The results? Social connection was “far and away” the most protective factor in preventing depression—specifically, confiding in others and in person visits with family and friends. This was true even for the individuals at the greatest risk of depression, including those with genetic risk as well as early life trauma.
Factors highlighted as the most powerful risk factors for developing depression included time spent watching TV and daytime napping. The scientists commented that the study could not discern whether TV watching risk was due to being too sedentary vs. media exposure.
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American Journal of Psychiatry, 2020; appi.ajp.2020.1 DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19111158