Objectives: Evidence on social stimuli associated with mental health is based mostly on self-reported health measures. We aimed to examine prospective associations between social connectedness and clinical diagnosis of depression and of anxiety. Methods: Longitudinal observational data merged with health insurance data comprising medical information on diagnosis of depression and anxiety were used. 1,209 randomly sampled employees of a US employer provided data for the analysis. Robust Poisson regression models were used. Multiple imputation was conducted to handle missing data on covariates. Results: Better social connectedness was associated with lower risks of subsequently diagnosed depression and anxiety, over a one-year follow-up period. Reports of feeling lonely were associated with increased risks of depression and anxiety. Association between community-related social connectedness and subsequent diagnosis of depression, but not of anxiety, was found. The associations were independent of demographics, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and work characteristics. They were also robust to unmeasured confounding, missing data patterns, and prior health conditions. Conclusion: Social connectedness may be an important factor for reducing risks of depression and anxiety. Loneliness should be perceived as a risk factor for depression and anxiety.
Keywords: anxiety; depression; health insurance data; loneliness; mental health; social connectedness.
Copyright © 2022 Weziak-Bialowolska, Bialowolski, Lee, Chen, VanderWeele and McNeely.