Background: Clinical depression is often preceded by social withdrawal, however, limited research has examined whether depressive symptoms are alleviated by interventions that increase social contact. In particular, no research has investigated whether social identification (the sense of being part of a group) moderates the impact of social interventions.
Method: We test this in two longitudinal intervention studies. In Study 1 (N=52), participants at risk of depression joined a community recreation group; in Study 2 (N=92) adults with diagnosed depression joined a clinical psychotherapy group.
Results: In both the studies, social identification predicted recovery from depression after controlling for initial depression severity, frequency of attendance, and group type. In Study 2, benefits of social identification were larger for depression symptoms than for anxiety symptoms or quality of life.
Limitation: Social identification is subjective and psychological, and therefore participants could not be randomly assigned to high and low social identification conditions.
Conclusions: Findings have implications for health practitioners in clinical and community settings, suggesting that facilitating social participation is effective and cost-effective in treating depression.
Keywords: Depression; Group psychotherapy; Loneliness; Mental health; Relapse prevention; Social identification.
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