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Social Isolation and Mental Health

Part 1: One out of six Americans experiences major depression in their lifetime. Major Depressive Disorder matters more than many other medical condition. Although research shows that social relationships and mental health are closely related, there are still lacking modifiable predictors for depression. Dr. Teo suggested that interventions addressing social relationships, such as peer support and couples therapy, may be effective for treating Major Depressive Disorder. Dr. Teo`s study hypothesized that the quality of social relationships and quantity of social contact predicts depressive symptoms. It is important to note that there are two components of relationship quality. Social support is the positive effects we get from the relationship, whereas social strain is the negative effects we get from the relationship. The results show that the quality of social contact is not associated with future depression, but social relationship quality has dose-dependent effect on the risk of depression. Interventions should increase support of psychotherapy that targets relationships. Part 2: Social relationship of all kinds has been decreasing in the past decades. Marriage rate and social network size has been decreasing. People living alone have been increasing and statistics showed that socially isolated people would die sooner. Dr. Hawkley explained that simply feeling isolated is detrimental to health and well-being. Loneliness can cause decreasing rates of physical activity, diminished immunity, progression of Alzheimer`s disease, obesity, alcoholism and increased mortality. However, Dr. Hawkley clearly stated that loneliness is different from social isolation. In general, loneliness is a subjective feeling of isolation, but social isolation is only an objective fact that people are socially isolated. Studies showed that feeling of isolation and disconnection predicts depressive symptoms. Dr. Hawkley suggested two important interventions for depression caused by loneliness, social cognitive training and social support.


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