How Friendship Fights Depression

By Published on August 21, 2015

There’s an idea out there that you can “catch” depression, that it’s contagious. (One self-help book unequivocally declares in its title that Depression Is Contagious.) Some research supports this idea—one study found that depressive symptoms tended to appear in clusters in social networks, and another found depressive thought patterns spread between college roommates (though positive thinking spread as well).

But a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B challenges that notion. Depression doesn’t spread, it found, but a healthy mood does. The researchers looked at data from more than 2,000 high-school students who took a survey of depression symptoms, and who also reported who their friends were, over a period of six to 12 months. 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” (in that they didn’t meet the criteria for depression), 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.

Read the article “How Friendship Fights Depression” on theatlantic.com.

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