Harvard study reveals the best defense against depression

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If recent reports are of any indication, America is on the brink of another major mental health crisis.

There appears to be a lot of variables at play. For some, economic uncertainty is the most pressing among them while others are having a tough time coping with prolonged periods of isolation.

Shelter in place angst saw a lot of Americans turn to drinking, binge eating, and channel surfing for comfort. Experts believe each poses a considerable risk increase for serious psychological disorders.

“Efforts to prevent depression, the leading cause of disability worldwide, have focused on a limited number of candidate factors. Using phenotypic and genomic data from over 100,000 UK Biobank participants, the authors sought to systematically screen and validate a wide range of potential modifiable factors for depression,” the abstract of a new study published in the Journal of Psychiatry states. “Using a two-stage approach, this study validates several actionable targets for preventing depression. It also demonstrates that not all factors associated with depression in observational research may translate into robust targets for prevention. A large-scale exposure-wide approach combined with genetically informed methods for causal inference may help prioritize strategies for multimodal prevention in psychiatry.”

Unfortunately, the extensive research identified socializing as the most impactful defensive against depressive symptoms; more specifically confiding in friends and leisure time with family and loved ones.

This was even true when the researchers adjusted for genetics and trauma incidence.

In the other direction, daytime-napping and habitual TV watching yielded robust relationships with depression.

“Numerous factors across social, sleep, media, dietary, and exercise-related domains were prospectively associated with depression, even among at-risk individuals,” the authors continued. “However, only a subset of factors was supported by Mendelian randomization evidence, including confiding in others, television watching time and daytime napping.”

“Depression takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society, yet we still know very little about how to prevent it,” says Smoller. “We hope this work will motivate further efforts to develop actionable strategies for preventing depression.”

COVD-19 is also directly heightening these figures. Fear revolving around losing someone to it, anxiety revolving around characteristics symptoms and commutes, and anxiety about a distant return to normalcy keeps civilization in a fixed state of panic.

There are viable ways to adhere to social distancing measures and keep connected with your social network.

In addition to zoom and other virtual communication platforms, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is always adding data to their guidelines for safe social activities:

  • Stay home if sick.
  • Wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • Use social distancing (stay at least 6 feet away from others).
  • Before you go, call and ask what extra prevention strategies they are using, like requiring staff to wear masks.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home.

“Far and away, the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlights the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion,” Jordon Smoller, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the lead author of the new paper in the Journal of Psychiatry, explained in a press release