Bonding and belonging is a wonderful feeling experienced by, apparently, not enough of us.
Becoming part of a social group can significantly reduce the effects of depression, a study conducted by Dr Tegan Cruwys and Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology has established. In fact, the research has shown that building strong social relationships is not just important, but key to treating and preventing clinical depression.
Dr Cruwys explained that depression affects 6.2 per cent of Australians at any one time, with up to 20 per cent of the population being affected at some point in their life.
“By joining a group, people are provided with exactly what they lack when they are depressed – a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning and purpose, and a source of social support,” she said.
Dr Cruwys and Professor Haslam’s study involved asking participants at high risk of developing depression to take part in group therapy sessions at a local hospital – to bond with others. Three months later, their observations taught them that for participants who felt connected to part of a recreation group, less than a third remained depressed at the study’s end. For those who didn’t identify with the group, more than half remained depressed, or at risk of being depressed.
“The results place accessible and cost-effective treatment in the hands of everyone without the stigma of seeking psychological treatment or suffering the side-effects of anti-depressants,” Dr Cruwys said.
Professor Haslam elaborated that the key to stopping depression is to be part of a group, and to let the group be part of you.