The relationship between social support networks and depression in the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being

Abstract

Purpose

Social isolation and low levels of social support are associated with depression. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationship between depression and social connectivity factors (frequency of contact and quality of social connections) in the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being.

Methods

A national survey of 8841 participants aged 16–85 years was conducted. Logistic regression was used to investigate the relationship between social connectivity factors and 12-month prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder in the whole sample, as well as across three age groups: younger adults (16–34 years), middle-aged adults (35–54 years), and older adults (55+ years). Respondents indicated how often they were in contact with family members and friends (frequency of contact), and how many family and friends they could rely on and confide in (quality of support), and were assessed for Major Depressive Disorder using the World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostics Interview.

Results

Overall, higher social connection quality was more closely and consistently associated with lower odds of the past year depression, relative to frequency of social interaction. The exception to this was for the older group in which fewer than a single friendship interaction each month was associated with a two-fold increased likelihood of the past year depression (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.14–4.25). Friendship networks were important throughout life, although in middle adulthood, family support was also critically important—those who did not have any family support had more than a three-fold increased odds of the past year depression (OR 3.47, 95% CI 2.07–5.85).

Conclusions

High-quality social connection with friends and family members is associated with reduced likelihood of the past year depression. Intervention studies that target the quality of social support for depression, particularly support from friends, are warranted.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvements Grants Fund; and a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence Grant (NHMRC APP1041129). The funders had no role in the design, execution, analyses or data interpretation for this study, or in the decision to submit the results for publication.

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Correspondence to Aliza Werner-Seidler.

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Werner-Seidler, A., Afzali, M.H., Chapman, C. et al. The relationship between social support networks and depression in the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 52, 1463–1473 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-017-1440-7

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Keywords

  • Depression
  • Social support
  • Social network, isolation