The easiest (proven) way to help a friend with depression.

Image via iStock.

According to Beyond Blue, in Australia it’s estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around one million Australian adults have depression, and over two million have anxiety.

If you haven’t suffered from depression yourself, it’s likely that you know someone who has. It’s very easy to feel powerless in this situation  – like there’s nothing you can do to help them.

But according to a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, this isn’t the case at all.

RELATED: The 10 best and worst things you can say to someone with depression.

Researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Warwick in the UK found that being around happy people is contagious (and being around depressed people isn’t).

“What we found is that if you have sufficient friends who are not depressed, in a healthy mood, then that can halve your probability of developing, or double your probability of recovering from, clinical depression in the six to twelve month period that the study ran over,” Dr. Thomas House, an author of the study, told CBS News.

“There’s no negative effect to friendship… your depressed friends don’t put you at more risk; in fact, you can help them recover.” Dr House says. (Post continues after gallery.)

Looking at data from over 2,000 teens in the United States, the researchers found that having 10 healthy (and happy) friends doubles the probability of recovering from depressive symptoms, compared with people with only three healthy friends.

RELATED: Studies finds a major link between fast food, sugar and depression.

Individuals in the study were analysed depending on whether they were experiencing depressive symptoms or not – according to traditional clinical indicators of the mood disorder. Both moods were then tracked using a contagion model to see if, and how, the moods were transferred between their peers.


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University of Warwick social science expert Edward Hill was involved with the study, and explained in a statement that it was not influenced by homophily (the tendency for friends to be with others already like themselves).

“This would have affected our research. For example if many adolescents drink a lot of alcohol and their friends drink a lot too it may be that alcoholic drinks cause depression among the young people rather than who they are friends with," he explained.

“Our results suggest that promotion of any friendship between adolescents can reduce depression since having depressed friends does not put them at risk, but having healthy friends is both protective and curative,” Dr Hill said.