The study published last month in PLOS ONE examined the correlation between depression and the quality of relationships people have with their spouses, family and friends. The study encompassed a ten year period of time and involved 5,000 Americans so researchers could determine how interpersonal relationships affected a person’s chances of becoming depressed.
Study participants were asked a series of questions to determine the whether their husbands or wives were supportive. According to the Huffington Post, the participants were asked questions such as “How much can you rely on him or her for help if you have a serious problem?” and “How much can you open up to him or her if you need to talk about your worries?” to evaluate their “partner’s level of support.” Other questions were worded to determine if a spouse was critical and whether the couple had strained relationship, the Huffington Post reported
“Our study shows that the quality of social relationships is a significant risk factor for major depression,” says psychiatrist Alan Teo, the study’s lead author and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at U-M. “This is the first time that a study has identified this link in the general population.”
The researchers concluded that one in seven adults with low-quality relationships—those that lack support and have spouses or family members who are overly critical—will suffer from depression. In contrast, only one in fifteen adults with high-quality relationships suffered from depression.
“These results tell us that health care providers need to remember that patients’ relationships with their loved ones likely play a central role in their medical care,” Teo explained to MLive. “They also suggest that the broader use of couples therapy might be considered, both as a treatment for depression and as a preventative measure.”
The study also determined that it was the quality of the relationship instead of frequent social interactions that determined a patient’s susceptibility to depression. Dr. Teo explained that even if patient was socially isolated, having minimal interactions with friends and family, but had strong supportive relationships they were less prone to depression.
“Asking a patient how she rates her relationship with her husband, rather than simply asking whether she has one, should be a priority,” Teo says.
“The magnitude of these results is similar to the well-established relationship between biological risk factors and cardiovascular disease,” Teo says. “What that means is that if we can teach people how to improve the quality of their relationships, we may be able to prevent or reduce the devastating effects of clinical depression.”
People get married for better or for worse, but they also need the support and approval of their spouse. If a person is married to an unsupportive and/or critical spouse it may be in the best interest of their physical health and emotional welfare to get a divorce from the person who makes them miserable, unless of course they can work through those differences, which more and more couples are able to do since the U.S. divorce rate is declining.