The notion that quality is more important than quantity is true when considering how intimate relationships influence depression, say University of Michigan researchers.
After analyzing data from around 5,000 American adults, the researchers found that the quality of a person's relationships with a spouse, family and friends all predicted the likelihood of major depression disorder in the future. Importantly, the findings held true regardless of how frequently the social interactions took place.
The study's lead author Alan Teo said that individuals with strained and unsupportive spouses were significantly more likely to develop depression, whereas those without a spouse were at no increased risk. And those with the lowest quality relationships had more than double the risk of depression than those with the best relationships.
"Our study shows that the quality of social relationships is a significant risk factor for major depression," said Teo. "This is the first time that a study has identified this link in the general population."
Somewhat surprisingly, the researchers did not find a correlation between the frequency of social interactions and the prevalence of depression. Even if participants were socially isolated, having few interactions with family and friends, it did not predict depression risk.
"What that means is that if we can teach people how to improve the quality of their relationships, we may be able to prevent or reduce the devastating effects of clinical depression," concluded Teo.
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Source: University of Michigan Health System