Good relationships with others reduce risk of depression

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

Cordial daily contacts at work and in the family reduce the risk of depression by 27 percent, while loneliness increases this risk by more than 30 percent, scientists have determined on the basis of the medical records of employees.

Scientists from the Jagiellonian University and Kozminski University investigated the associations between cordial interpersonal contacts and clinically diagnosed mental health disorders.

Loneliness can cause depression

Participants were asked, among other things, whether they agreed with the following statements: 'people around me trust me', 'people around me trust and respect each other' and 'I feel connected to the community around me'. Those who answered positively had a reduced risk of a clinical diagnosis of depression.

First author of the publication, Dr. Dorota Węziak-Białowolska from the Jagiellonian University, said: “Satisfaction with friendship and good relationships with others, as well as satisfying contacts with people who can be asked for help, reduced the risk of both diagnosed depression and anxiety.”

The study therefore shows that the quality of social connections influences whether people suffer from depression or anxiety. According to Dr. Piotr Białowolski from Kozminski University, who dealt with data analysis and interpretation of results in the project, the feeling of loneliness should be perceived as a risk factor for mental disorders.

It is worth developing relationships at work

He said: “Our study shows the importance of social connectedness, largely realised in the workplace, for mental health. People can often be discouraged from developing relationships at work, because employers may be afraid of work efficiency decrease.”

He adds that social connectedness can reduce the risk of developing depression and anxiety. The conclusions from the analysis of medical records precisely determine the relationship between cordial contacts and clinically diagnosed mental health disorders.

Improving community-related social connectedness reduces the risk of depression by 27 percent. In the case of anxiety, good relationships with friends at work or with family at home reduce the likelihood of mental problems by 18 percent. Among people who believe there is someone who understands them, the risk of being diagnosed with depression drops by 17 percent. In the context of anxiety, the rate is 12 percent. On the other hand, loneliness increases the risk of depression by 32 percent and the risk of anxiety by 21 percent.

Key understanding of the environment

The researchers analysed the individual components of social connectedness, such as relationship satisfaction, understanding and the frequency of loneliness. It turns out that those components that relate to personal relationships are closely related to the risk of both depression and anxiety. The components of community-related social connectedness only affect the risk of depression.

Dr. Węziak-Białowolska and Dr. Białowolski, who also work at Harvard University, analysed data from the medical records of over 1,200 employees of a US employer. The research team members included analysts, biostatisticians, public health experts, psychologists and sociologists.

The paper 'Prospective Associations Between Social Connectedness and Mental Health. Evidence From a Longitudinal Survey and Health Insurance Claims Data' was published in theInternational Journal of Public Health.

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