Support from family and friends and proper treatment are important in the recovery of patients diagnosed with depression, but a new study by University College Dublin (UCD) researchers funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland shows that adding social activities to their calendar may also have a significant impact.

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Over a period of nine months, more than 100 patients who were already receiving treatment for their mental health problems were asked to participate in a social activity for at least two hours each week. They were given a monthly stipend of €20. Some patients were even partnered with a volunteer to help them begin a friendship. Prior to the experiment, 20 percent of the participants had no contact with friends, 33 percent said that they never interacted with the neighbors, 50 percent didn’t attend social groups, and 35 percent lived alone.

As the months progressed, so did the participants’ social activities. They had coffee with other people, saw a movie, attended a play, and visited a gallery among others. "By the end of the study, all of the participants reported feeling better about themselves, having more confidence to socialise in their community, and experiencing fewer symptoms of depression," reports Dr. Ann Sheridan of UCD, lead author of the study.

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Clearly, the added interaction has helped the patients a great deal. According to Ms. Kathleen Lynch, Ireland's Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, "[It] helps sufferers to rebuild their self-esteem, which in turn enables them to maintain and develop positive relationships and friendships." Aside from conventional treatments recommended by doctors, it may be a good idea to encourage people with depression to go out more and mingle with others in their community.


(Photo by Bobbi Dombrowski via sxc.hu)

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