Depression is a major public health concern worldwide. A new study has revealed that simply talking to or helping a friend who is suffering from depression would not affect your own mental health as depression does not spread from friend to friend. The findings suggest that while depression does not 'spread', having enough friends with a healthy mood can halve the probability of developing, or double the probability of recovering from, depression over a six to 12 month period.
Study lead author Edward Hill from University of Warwick in England said, "Our results suggest that promotion of any friendship between adolescents can reduce depression since having depressed friends does not put them at risk, but having healthy friends is both protective and curative."
For the study, researchers analyzed the way over 2,000 teenagers in a group of US high schools influenced each others' mood. They used a mathematical model to establish if depression spreads from friend to friend. The researchers determined that adolescents who had five or more mentally healthy friends had half the probability of becoming depressed compared to adolescents with no healthy friends. Teenagers who had 10 healthy friends had double the probability of recovering from depressive symptoms compared to adolescents with just three healthy friends.
Frances Griffiths, professor at Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick in England, said, "We have found that a healthy mood among friends is linked with a significantly reduced risk of developing and increased chance of recovering from depression. 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."
The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.