Depression and Lack of Social Support
The role of community involvement
Many studies have identified a link between depression and lack of social support, not having support available from other people, when people are trying to deal with stress. Researchers at Duke University and the University of Albany, State University of New York recently explored what makes up this link.
What was the research about?
The researchers proposed a model to describe the association between depression and lack of social support in times of stress. They found that the model was supported by statistical tests. In particular, they found that social support could be thought of in terms of its structure and function. The structure of social support is made up of people's involvement in community activities, the number of people they tend to come into contact with, and whether or not people have spouses or intimate partners. The function of social support is considered in terms of the degree to which people believe they are receiving support compared to how much support they actually do receive, the degree to which the support they receive helps solve problems compared to how much support serves to make them feel better, and the degree to which support is available for people whenever they need it compared to it only being available during crises.
In general, the model shows that more involvement in community activities leads to more contact with other people and more intimate relationships, which in turn, lead to less depression. The conditions in which this process takes place, however, depend on the three ways in which the model indicates that the function of social support can differ.
Why should it matter to me?
The findings from this study suggest that, if people increase their involvement in community activities such as becoming more involved with volunteer organizations, they may be less vulnerable to depression. Involvement in community activities seems to promote other more person-to-person forms of social support that can reduce the risk of depression in response to stress.
Source: Xiaolanye, N. L., & Ensel, W. M. (1999). Social support and depressed mood: A structural analysis. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40, 344-359.