Depression affects millions of people worldwide and can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.
In a recent study conducted by scientists from Colorado State University, it was found that social isolation is a primary risk factor for depression in middle-aged and older adults.
The research team utilized a machine learning approach to analyze data from a large, population-representative sample of middle-aged and older European adults.
Out of the 56 variables examined, social isolation was found to be the leading risk factor for depression in both men and women. This was followed by general poor health and mobility difficulties.
The team also looked at 30 variables related to participants’ social networks and family configurations, such as frequency of contact, number of friends, and interpersonal transactions related to physical care and financial support.
For men, a fourth key risk factor was difficulty in instrumental activities of daily life, such as managing finances, taking medications, and making telephone calls.
For women, a fourth key risk factor was a family burden. Women who strongly agreed that “family responsibilities get in the way of my being able to do the things I want to do” were at an elevated risk for depression.
However, the study found that these gender-specific factors accounted for only a small proportion of differences in depression risk.
The research team aimed to target a wide variety of risk and protective factors for depression.
They believe it would be especially important to look at different dimensions of social and relational support, given that self-reported social isolation may be more closely linked to some factors than others.
The findings of this study highlight the importance of social support and connectedness in reducing the risk of depression, particularly in middle-aged and older adults.
The study was conducted by Stephen Aichele and his team, and it was published in The Lancet Regional Health—Europe.
The researchers hope that their findings will encourage healthcare providers to consider the role of social isolation and relational support when working with patients who are at risk for depression.
If you care about depression, please read studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.
For more information about health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and extra-virgin olive oil could reduce depression symptoms.
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