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An Experience-Sampling Study of Depressive Symptoms and Their Social Context

Brown, Leslie H. PhD*; Strauman, Timothy PhD; Barrantes-Vidal, Neus PhD‡§∥¶; Silvia, Paul J. PhD; Kwapil, Thomas R. PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: June 2011 - Volume 199 - Issue 6 - p 403-409
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31821cd24b
Original Articles

Both clinical and subclinical depression are associated with social impairment; however, few studies have examined the impact of social contact in the daily lives of people with depressive symptoms. The current study used the experience-sampling methodology to examine associations between depressive symptoms, social contact, and daily life impairment in 197 young adults. Depressive symptoms were associated with increased isolation, negative affect, anhedonia, and physical symptoms, decreased positive affect, and social and cognitive impairment in daily life. For people with more depressive symptoms, being with social partners who were perceived as close was associated with greater decreases in negative affect, as well as increases in positive affect. Ironically, participants with depressive symptoms reported spending less time with people whom they perceived as close, minimizing the protective effects of socializing. These results suggest that people experiencing depressive symptoms may be especially sensitive to the nature of social interactions.

*University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA; †Duke University, Durham, NC; ‡Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; §Sant Pere Claver-Fundació Sanitària, Barcelona, Spain; ∥University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC; ¶Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental, CIBERSAM, Barcelona, Spain.

Leslie Brown was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research.

Send reprint requests to Leslie H. Brown, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Sterling Plaza Suite 200, 201 N Craig St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.