A new study has found convincing evidence for something we’ve all suspected for a while.
Friends can help boost your mood and alleviate symptoms of depression.
About a quarter of the population in Britain will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder, according to figures from the Mental Health Foundation.
So there's never been a more pertinent time to look for answers.
Researchers from the University of Manchester looked at data from more than 2,000 students who took a depression survey and provided data on their friendships.
They found that participants who scored as clinically depressed who had enough friends in a “healthy mood” (i.e. friends not meeting the criteria for depression), doubled their chances of recovering from the illness.
And for people who weren’t depressed in the first place, having enough “healthy mood” friends halved their chances of developing any depression at all.
The study concluded that adolescents with five or more “healthy mood” friends have half the probability of becoming depressed over a year period, compared with adolescents with no “healthy mood” friends.
And adolescents with 10 “healthy mood” friends have double the probability of recovering from depressive symptoms over a year period, compared to those with three or less “healthy mood” friends.
The findings published in Proceedings of the Royal Society supports previous research which has found that high-quality social relationships lower people’s risk of depression.
The study also challenges the notion that depression can spread or be contagious. Some studies have found that depressive symptoms tend to appear in “clusters” in social networks, with one claiming that depressive thought patterns spread between university roommates.
But this new study, which concentrated on a large adolescent population with different social networks, found that teens who initially scored as clinically depressed did not “infect” their friends.
One of the study's authors, Thomas House, a senior lecturer in applied mathematics at the University of Manchester, says he believes his new research has an advantage over others that have examined “clusters” of friends at once.
With groups of friends who are depressed, it’s possible there’s a third factor at play—maybe “they're all heavily drinking or they’re all doing something else that makes them more predisposed to depression,” House says.
“Our method wasn't susceptible to that because we looked at direct changes of state. We were pretty much directly observing this process of your friend influencing you. And the nice conclusion that we got was that your friends can protect you from depression and help you recover from it.”
We think this news calls for a celebratory Girls Night In..
For more info on mental disorders and how to get help visit mind.org.uk