Depression and Social Networks
Our mental health is affected by the company we keep
Major depressive disorder is characterised by a constant sense of hopelessness and despair and is also known as clinical depression. With major depression, it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. Some people have clinical depression only once in their lifetime, while others have several episodes within the course of their lives.
Major depression typically brings with it a diminished interest in social interactions. People with depression have also been found to have an increased sensitivity to social rejection and impaired emotion recognition and negative emotional bias. The linked paper below explores some of these correlates in greater detail, particularly in the context of neuro-imaging studies.
There are many interesting findings within this paper, which are all presented in a highly comprehensive and readable way. We would particularly like to highlight the systemic issue of depression within social networks. Rosenquist et al. (2011), for example, have shown that depressive tendencies seem to travel along social networks, and that depression scores are strongly correlated with depression measures in one’s friends and neighbours. Moreover, over time, adolescents’ depressive symptoms increasingly converge toward the average levels of their peers, independent from the level of the peers’ depressive symptom severity (Kiuru et al., 2012). Further, adolescents tended to select friends with similar levels of depression, and friends might increase each other’s depressive symptoms as relationships endure (Van Zalk et al., 2010). It is not 'news' of course that our mental health is deeply affected by the company we keep; a point, however, that is worth reminding ourselves of from time to time.