Approximately one in five people experience depression at some stage in their life – and the figure is even higher in areas afflicted by disaster, trauma, or poverty. So it would be a lucky person indeed who avoids seeing depression in either themselves or the people they love.
Because of its capacity to strike so close to home, most people are well aware of the key signs of clinical depression: notably, the experience of profound sadness, a loss of enjoyment and interest, changes in energy levels and appetite, and a sense of guilt or hopelessness about the future.
Depression has received more research attention than most other mental health issues, and thankfully we have two forms of treatment that work: psychological therapy and antidepressant medication.
But here is the bad news: over the last 30 years, existing treatments have not reduced the prevalence nor the disability caused by depression.
This suggests that we need new approaches to treatment that are low-cost, non-stigmatising, and that protect people across the lifespan (and not only during periods of acute symptoms). My colleagues and I set out to look for these new approaches.
A growing body of evidence – explored in our book – suggests that social connectedness is a good place to start looking for these new solutions.