Social relationship correlates of major depressive disorder and depressive symptoms in Switzerland: nationally representative cross sectional study

Barger, Steven D.; Messerli-Bürgy, Nadine; Barth, Jürgen (2014). Social relationship correlates of major depressive disorder and depressive symptoms in Switzerland: nationally representative cross sectional study. BMC public health, 14(1), pp. 273-282. BioMed Central 10.1186/1471-2458-14-273

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BACKGROUND The quality and quantity of social relationships are associated with depression but there is less evidence regarding which aspects of social relationship are most predictive. We evaluated the relative magnitude and independence of the association of four social relationship domains with major depressive disorder and depressive symptoms. METHODS We analyzed a cross-sectional telephone interview and postal survey of a probability sample of adults living in Switzerland (N = 12,286). Twelve-month major depressive disorder was assessed via structured interview over the telephone using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). The postal survey assessed depressive symptoms as well as variables representing emotional support, tangible support, social integration, and loneliness. RESULTS Each individual social relationship domain was associated with both outcome measures, but in multivariate models being lonely and perceiving unmet emotional support had the largest and most consistent associations across depression outcomes (incidence rate ratios ranging from 1.55-9.97 for loneliness and from 1.23-1.40 for unmet support, p's < 0.05). All social relationship domains except marital status were independently associated with depressive symptoms whereas only loneliness and unmet support were associated with depressive disorder. CONCLUSIONS Perceived quality and frequency of social relationships are associated with clinical depression and depressive symptoms across a wide adult age spectrum. This study extends prior work linking loneliness to depression by showing that a broad range of social relationship domains are associated with psychological well-being.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy

UniBE Contributor:

Messerli, Nadine and Barth, Jürgen


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




BioMed Central




Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

30 Apr 2014 12:00

Last Modified:

03 Jan 2015 21:20

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Depression, Social networks, Support, Social, Social isolation, Swiss Health Survey




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