Nav: Home

Social networks and suicide prevention

May 22, 2019

Depression and mental health problems are increasing - and suicide and drug overdose rates are rising dramatically in the USA.

In a hyperconnected world, traditional social networks - face-to-face contacts of daily life - are unravelling with the loss of social supports, Flinders University psychiatrists warn in a letter published in the international journal The Lancet.

This is associated with increasing 'deaths of despair' related to alcohol, opiate overdose and suicide "becoming more prevalent than ever".

The experts say clinicians and others need to remember that depression and other mental health problems are known to spread through close social networks, up to "three degrees of separation" - or a friend of a friend of a friend.

"You could possibly say the rising suicide rate in the USA is related to 'contagion' of low mood and depression. Despair and distress can spread through social networks," says Professor Tarun Bastiampillai, from the Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health in South Australia.

"The major implication is that instead of only resorting to medication, or individual psychological treatment, clinicians should also look to immediate social networks and wider social context including the influences of friends and family and wellbeing at work.

"The emotional experiences of this clustered social network of up to 150 people - the traditional size of a village in the past - means 'friends of friends of friends' can have a negative or positive effect on us," says clinical academic Professor Bastiampillai.

"More now than ever, we have ways to connect to other people online. Our diary can be full and our lives busy, but are we connecting in a meaningful or harmful way via these online and offline social networks?

"Clinicians may need to look beyond an individual's psychology and look at the individual's wider social network and the negative or positive impacts it has."

Doctors should consider 'social prescribing' - where patients who present with depression are helped to engage with positive activities within their networks.

While Australia's suicide rate is relatively stable, America's total suicide rate has increased 31% from 10.7 to 14 per 100,000 people in the past two decades. US suicide rates among males is almost four times higher (22.4 per 100,000 in 2017) than among females (6.1 per 100,000 in 2017).

In addition, there has been a concerning increase in US deaths related to drug overdoses during this time, from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.7 per 100,000 in 2017. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db329.htm)

Low socioeconomic status, diminishing job prospects, low income, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown, divorce and rural isolation are linked to the official figures.

Therapeutic interventions can include analysing 'depression clusters' and developing more positive and healthy social networks - from relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours to joining a sporting club or hobby group to expand the social network.

have also warned against the overuse of antipsychotic drugs in young people, including for bipolar disorder and anorexia nervosa.

The letter, 'Social network theory and rising suicide rates in the USA' by Flinders University psychiatry researchers Professor Bastiampillai and colleague Dr Stephen Allison, and Seth W Perry and Julio Licinio from SUNY Upstate Medical University, New York, was published this month in The Lancet (Elsevier) correspondence.
-end-


Flinders University

Related Depression Articles:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.
Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.
Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.
Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.
A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.
Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.
Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.
CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
More Depression News and Depression Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons
Baboon troops. We all know they're hierarchical. There's the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there's everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power.  This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.