You can ‘catch’ depression from friends, says study

anima action on depression

Action on Depression has launched a campaign to challenge stereotypes about depression. www.actionondepression.org

Vulnerability to depression can be catching, especially at times of life transition, according to a scientific study.

People who think in a certain type of way – who respond negatively to stressful life events, and believe things won’t change and their own deficiencies are somehow to blame – are described as having ‘cognitive vulnerability’ by the researchers at Notre Dame University in Indiana. Cognitive vulnerability is a risk factor for depression, they say, even if people haven’t suffered from depression in the past.

Cognitive vulnerability can be ‘catching’ at times of big change, like going to college for the first time. The researchers’ study of 103 pairs of students sharing rooms on campus found that levels of cognitive vulnerability were contagious. Students would pick up on the other person’s levels of cognitive vulnerability. Those with higher levels after three months would show more depressive symptoms at six months.

Study author Dr Gerard Haeffel says this could have implications for predicting who might become depressed in future. He adds: “Surrounding a person with other who exhibit and adaptive cognitive style should help to facilitate cognitive change in therapy.”

This news comes during Depression Awareness Week 2013. Depression Alliance is launching Friends in Need to help end the loneliness that accompanies depression. And Action on Depression in Scotland has launched a new campaign ‘Never judge a book…’ to tackle stereotypes about depression.

To speak to a counsellor one-to-one about depression, email info@animacounselling.co.uk or call 07956 823501.

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