For Many of Those with Depression, It Gets Much Better

The good news for people who have experienced major depression is that many are able to recover and achieve substantial happiness and life satisfaction.

Researchers from the University of Toronto discovered that approximately two in five adults (39 percent) who have experienced major depression are able to achieve positive social and psychological well-being, as well as freedom from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse for at least one full year.

“This research provides a hopeful message to patients struggling with depression, their families and health professionals. A large number of formerly depressed individuals recover and go on to reach optimal well-being,” said Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson, lead author of the study and a member of the Faculty of Social Work and the Institute for Life Course and Aging at University of Toronto.

Researchers discovered social support was a major factor associated with complete mental health.

“Formerly depressed adults who had emotionally supportive and close relationships were four times more likely to report complete mental health than those without such relationships. Having at least one trusted friend was critical to cultivating complete mental health,” said co-author Mercedes Bern-Klug.

The study’s authors were surprised to learn that the length of the depressive episode had no bearing on an individual’s ability to attain complete mental health. Those whose longest depressive episode lasted more than two years were just as likely to be in complete mental health as those who had had the disorder for only one month.

“In other words, there is no need for individuals and families to lose hope that a full recovery is beyond reach,” said co-author Senyo Agbeyaka, a graduate student at the University of Toronto.

Compared to the formerly depressed adults who did not achieve complete mental health, those who did were more likely to be female, white, older, affluent, married, with a confidant, also free of disabling pain, insomnia, and childhood adversities, and without a history of substance abuse. They were also more likely to exercise regularly and use spirituality to cope.

However, a variety of associated physical conditions were found to challenge recovery. For example, poorer physical health, functional limitations, and insomnia were impediments to flourishing in the sample.

“Clearly, this underlines the importance for health professionals to consider strategies that address both physical health problems and social isolation when treating those with depression,” said co-author Deborah LaFond, from the University at Albany, State University of New York.

In the study, researchers examined a nationally representative sample of more than 2,500 Canadians who had experienced a major depressive disorder at some point in their lives. The data were drawn from Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

The study appears in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Source: University of Toronto/EurekAlert