Coming from a close family can guard against depression, study suggests

Olivia Petter
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Having a good relationship with your family in adolescence may help lower the risk of developing depression as an adult, new research suggests.

According to a study of more than 18,000 people published in the journal Jama Pediatrics, this is something that may benefit men and women equally all the way into midlife.

For the study, which was conducted by a group of sociologists at North Carolina University, the authors examined data on people aged 12 to 42 using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

The mental health of participants was tracked on a 20-part psychological scale that asks them to rate how often they experience symptoms related to depression, such as low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness.

Those taking part are then given a score ranging from zero to 60, with higher scores indicating more severe levels of depression.

The quality of participants’ family relationships were analysed via questions designed to measure levels of cohesion and conflict between parents and children. This involved responding to questions that monitored how much attention was paid to the children, the amount of fun they had with their parents and how much they felt understood within their families.

Respondents were analysed in four follow-up sessions that tracked how their mental health and family relationships changed over time.

The study concluded that overall, people with low levels of family conflict and positive familiar relationships experienced fewer depressive symptoms.

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Lead author Dr Ping Chen of North Carolina University said: “Our findings appear to provide new understanding of the long-term association between early family relationships and lifetime development of depression.

“These sources of social and emotional support in early family life are likely encourage the development of skills for coping with changing and cumulative stressors, promoting mental health throughout the life course from early adolescence to midlife and helping to prevent negative outcomes and premature deaths due to suicide, alcohol or drugs in middle age.”

If you have been affected by any issues mentioned in this article, you can contact The Samaritans for free on 116 123 or any of the following mental health organisations:

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