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Social support and protection from depression: systematic review of current findings in Western countries

  • Geneviève Gariépy (a1), Helena Honkaniemi (a2) and Amélie Quesnel-Vallée (a3)
Abstract
Background

Numerous studies report an association between social support and protection from depression, but no systematic review or meta-analysis exists on this topic.

Aims

To review systematically the characteristics of social support (types and source) associated with protection from depression across life periods (childhood and adolescence; adulthood; older age) and by study design (cross-sectional v. cohort studies).

Method

A systematic literature search conducted in February 2015 yielded 100 eligible studies. Study quality was assessed using a critical appraisal checklist, followed by meta-analyses.

Results

Sources of support varied across life periods, with parental support being most important among children and adolescents, whereas adults and older adults relied more on spouses, followed by family and then friends. Significant heterogeneity in social support measurement was noted. Effects were weaker in both magnitude and significance in cohort studies.

Conclusions

Knowledge gaps remain due to social support measurement heterogeneity and to evidence of reverse causality bias.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, International Research Infrastructure on Social Inequalities in Health, McGill University, Stephen Leacock Building, Room 713, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7, Canada. Email: amelie.quesnelvallee@mcgill.ca
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Social support and protection from depression: systematic review of current findings in Western countries

  • Geneviève Gariépy (a1), Helena Honkaniemi (a2) and Amélie Quesnel-Vallée (a3)
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