Fact or Myth: Friendship Fights Depression?

Senior black women gossipingThis is part FACT.

We don’t need science to convince us of the benefits of friendship. Time spent having fun with friends fills us up with joy, laughter, and meaning. But it’s nice to see science confirm the actual physical and mental health benefits of friendship.

Studies have shown that individuals who are socially isolated tend to be in poorer health and not live as long as those with a strong social support system. For example, Australian researchers followed 1500 older adults for 10 years. At the end of the study, those with the largest network of friends lived 22% longer than those with the fewest. Interestingly, close ties to relatives and children didn’t exhibit the same effect on lifespan, suggesting that even when family ties are strong, one shouldn’t forgo establishing lasting friendships.

A new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B indicates that friendship fights depression. For a period of 6-12 months over 2000 high school students answered questions regarding symptoms of depression and friendship.

The Atlantic reports:

“Kids who initially scored as clinically depressed did not ‘infect’ their friends, but if they had enough friends who had what the study called a ‘healthy mood’… that doubled their chances of recovering from their depression.

 And for people who weren’t depressed in the first place, having enough mentally healthy friends halved their chances of developing depression.

 That’s a pretty large effect, and supports previous research saying that high-quality social relationships lower people’s risk of depression.”

Earlier studies have suggested that just one depressed seed in a group can pull down others. This study refutes such claims. While a depressed friend may bum you out a bit, their influence is unlikely to make you clinically depressed. Birds of a feather flock together after all. Among a group of depressed friends, it’s not so much one person that’s spreading the depression, but rather a third factor such as alcohol or drugs that may be contributing to depression in the overall group.

Positivity, however, is contagious. A good mood and positive outlook do seem to infect your friends, so be sure to spread your positivity far and wide!