By Dr. Will Henson
A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined over 100 factors related to depression that people could change or modify in their lives to help minimize the impact of depression. The results would be interesting even under normal circumstances, but the COVID-19 pandemic makes the findings especially salient since we know that during times of societal upheaval, depression rates increase.
So what did the study find?
First: the most important thing people can do to combat depression is to maintain strong social connections. Social connectedness is essential in preventing and combating depression. While it’s harder than ever to maintain during the pandemic, it’s also more important than ever. Regular phone calls with friends and family; using technology for video chats, or group texts; or finding ways to safely meet in person are all ways to preserve those important relationships in our lives.
Second: two of the factors most closely associated with depression were daytime napping and TV-watching. The authors note these categories may be proxies for general inactivity. It’s easier than ever now to spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer, but it’s also more important than ever to get yourself, your students, and your family up and moving!
The takeaway is that our collective mental health is reliant upon sustaining close relationships with those around us and also moving our bodies. If we can be sure to incorporate those two important goals into our lives, we have a good chance of mitigating the long term impact of the COVID-19 crisis.