2 in 5 Adults Reach Complete Mental Health After Depression

Woman opens up curtains in a bedroomThirty-nine percent of formerly depressed adults have achieved complete remission and report leading happy, flourishing lives, according to a study published in Psychiatry Research. The study explored specific factors that increase the likelihood a person with depression will be able to overcome symptoms and achieve happiness and psychological well-being.

Is Complete Depression Recovery Possible?

Researchers gathered their data from the nationally representative 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey on mental health, which included 20,955 people. They then looked at mental health outcomes in 2,528 participants who had a history of depression. The study’s authors compared people with a history of depression to those without a history of depression, controlling for factors such as physical health, lifetime mental health, and socioeconomic status.

They found 78% of those with no history of depression had achieved “complete mental health,” which is defined in the study as near-daily happiness and satisfaction; freedom from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide for at least one year; and psychological and social well-being. Length of depression made no difference in ability to reach complete mental health. Among the group that had experienced depression, about two in five participants achieved complete mental health.

What Factors Increase the Odds of Happiness After Depression?

Some similarities emerged among formerly depressed people who achieved complete mental health. They were more likely to be affluent, white, and female with a high socioeconomic status. Other factors that increased the odds of recovery included:

  • Being married
  • Having a confidant
  • Having no disabling pain
  • Quality sleep marked by a lack of insomnia
  • No childhood adversity
  • No history of substance abuse
  • Regular exercise
  • Using spirituality to cope with stress

Though many factors associated with recovery were outside of participants’ control, the study’s authors say their research may offer hope to those struggling with depression. Not only does it demonstrate the possibility to achieve complete mental health after experiencing depression, it also shows lifestyle choices matter. The study did not explore treatment methods, but because certain health issues—such as insomnia and disabling pain—are associated with depression, the researchers point to the value of treating these conditions as a first step.


  1. Fuller-Thomson, E., Agbeyaka, S., Lafond, D. M., & Bern-Klug, M. (2016). Flourishing after depression: Factors associated with achieving complete mental health among those with a history of depression. Psychiatry Research, 242, 111-120. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2016.04.041
  2. Two in five formerly depressed adults are happy, flourishing. (2016, June 7). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160607120808.htm

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  • Nandakumar

    June 15th, 2016 at 6:45 PM

    Great article..found the statistical facts particularly interesting.
    Many times these days I wonder if I’m really healed..then I look back at who I was and how Ive left the anger,depression, anxiety and self abuse behind.
    Far from being just a part of the process, Spirituality was the main aspect. I read the Bhagavad Gita meditated and applied it in every aspect of my life.

    I used racing, cycling and swimming to fill up my emotional hunger. And also to practise meditative/diaphragmatic breathing during exercise.

    I confided everything to my wife and embraced my emotional vulnerability.

    I focused on the goal of self realisation.

    I wonder if the other people who recovered also had spiritual experiences,
    I use the term loosely for want of a better term..It was the flood of repressed emotions after a lifetime of not feeling much except the worst.
    The out of body experience was accompanied by the strongest sense of identity I have ever experienced,
    now I see that it was my brain telling me that who I thought I was wasn’t really who I was.

    Meeting the past n experiencing everything again was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life..And growing a new identity after the dissolution of the old as well.
    I think this is why most mystics speak in a magical language. The ego is obliterated and only the unconscious remains. Symbolism is its language.

    The benefits of the whole process (apart from the obvious);

    I have made learning through realisation my first nature,and so am able to create original concepts naturally.
    I can choose to open myself (soft boundaries) or wall-up to protect myself or get the job done (rigid)
    I can choose a boundary between me and my thoughts,emotions and sensations or experience them completely in balance.
    It’s still hard work and I still have a long way to go..But when ever I feel its all in my imagination..All I have to do is look back.

  • ginger

    June 16th, 2016 at 9:43 AM

    This certainly gives me hope. I thought that my depression was behind me but I am starting to feel it creeping up on me again and think that I should at least go back to my therapist for a bit to see what is going on. I have been under quite a bit of pressure at work lately and I am not sure but I think that is beginning to very much take its toll on me. I am not really sure who I should talk to but I feel like I need to do something before sinking back into those depths again where I was previously.

  • Anon

    June 16th, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    This is comforting? Only 2 out of 5 find lasting recovery and those folks are likely to be affluent folks with no childhood adversity. The article says: “Not only does it demonstrate the possibility to achieve complete mental health after experiencing depression, it also shows lifestyle choices matter.” Maybe we read something different. What control do you have over race, gender, socioeconomic status, childhood adversity, etc.? And if you think that you have “control” over other factors, such as “no history of substance abuse,” then you obviously haven’t read the ACES.

  • Jade

    June 16th, 2016 at 1:46 PM

    2 in 5? Not very reassuring

  • Nandakumar

    June 16th, 2016 at 4:54 PM

    There is no reason why the stats can’t change. Mental health awareness is growing and there is less stigma attached.

    To be honest, my therapist didn’t sugar coat the difficulty of the process and was brutally honest, that was exactly what I needed.

  • kellen

    June 18th, 2016 at 9:07 AM

    This is what we all seek. I see no reason why one would not be able to fully recover.

  • Ric

    June 20th, 2016 at 11:41 AM

    I am sort of confused by what complete mental health would actually mean. I’m not depressed, most of my days are great and I’m not depressed. But I am thinking that even with that there are always going to be ways that we can improve and make improvements in our lives so why it would have to be made to seem that there is only things to strive for with three out of five of us is confusing. Even if I am healthy then I am always working for ways to be even better, or should be, correct?

  • marnie

    June 21st, 2016 at 2:38 PM

    Having been depressed in the past I believe that I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing that this has happened to me before and it could always come back and get me again.

    I am afraid that thinking that way though will sort of lead to a self fulfilling prophecy that it’s going o happen just because I continue to expect that it will.

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