Researchers from Harvard Chan SHINE and the Human Flourishing Program have published a new paper in the International Journal of Public Health examining the associations between social connectedness and mental health, based on a longitudinal survey and health insurance claims data.

SHINE’s Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, Piotr Bialowolski, and Eileen McNeely and Human Flourishing Program’s Matthew T. Lee, Ying Chen and Tyler J. VanderWeele found that 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.

Their findings include that social connectedness may be an important factor for reducing risks of depression and anxiety and that loneliness should be perceived as a risk factor for depression and anxiety.

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