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Aug 30, 2014 02:59 AM EDT

Social Activities Can Help Alleviate Depression, Study

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Group bonding can help lower effects of depression, according to a University of Queensland study.

The researchers said that strong social relationships can effectively treat and combat clinical depression. People who frequently conversed or were associated with a social group, displayed enhanced quality of life and substantial improvement in treatments against depression.

The finding presents a ray of hope to disadvantaged groups, where the cost and availability of medical and psychological treatments is often a problem.

"By joining a group, people are provided with exactly what they lack when they are depressed - a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning and purpose, and a source of social support. The results place accessible and cost-effective treatment in the hands of everyone without the stigma of seeking psychological treatment or suffering the side-effects of anti-depressants," Dr Tegan Cruwys from the School of Psychology, said in a statement.

For the study, the researchers asked those participants who are at a high risk of developing depression to enroll into a community recreation group like sporting, sewing or art group. Another set of participants diagnosed with depression participated in group therapy sessions at a local hospital.

The researchers surveyed both the groups three months later to assess the effectiveness of both the treatments. Professor Alex Haslam from UQ's School of Psychology said that the study provided evidence that social groups can help avert depression.

"For those who felt connected and part of a recreation group, less than one third were still depressed at the end of the study, whereas for those who did not identify with the group, more than half remained depressed," Haslam said. "The key to stopping depression is being part of the group and having the group be part of you."

The finding is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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