Loneliness and Depression vs. Group Membership and Resilience

It’s human instinct to build relationships with others. While everyone needs solitude now and again (some more than others), we all recognize the importance of relationships in our lives. Psychologists have been researching the connection between mental health, physical health, and loneliness and have come up with some interesting, though not entirely surprising, conclusions.

First, depression and loneliness among children. Kids who don’t have enough friends in their younger years are more likely to become depressed and need to find a therapist when they reach adolescence. This is difficult because peer studies show that groups of children will avoid and isolate two types of children with compromised social skills: those who are overly aggressive and immature, and those who are extremely withdrawn and quiet. Children are emotionally volatile: they all feel sad, left out, or upset at times. But kids with friends—even one close friend is enough to help—don’t internalize those emotions the same way lonely kids do.

A second study on people who join groups shows that building relationships doesn’t just protect from negative impact; it has a positive impact as well. People who belong to groups, especially multiple groups, are more emotionally, psychologically, and physically resilient than those who don’t. Being a member of a group helps protect people from depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other problems that are often brought up in therapy and counseling. But it also creates a sense of identity. Group membership gives people a sense of value and belonging because of the role they play within the group. Plus, group membership is a distinct attribute that helps make the person who they are.

Together, these studies are a striking portrait of social interaction’s necessity in modern life. The more we distance ourselves through technology, the more weight real relationships and group identities will carry in our psyches. Meaningful relationships won’t prevent the type of depression and anxiety that require therapy or counseling to heal. But not having those relationships puts us more at risk for slipping into those darker places.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jonah Green, LCSW-C

    December 17th, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    Nice post. I wonder about the role of online connections? My sense is that for many people online communication is a conduit to connect with others in the physical world (i.e., meetup.com). I also think that many online connections wherein people rarely meet (like a list-serve for parents of children with disabilities) serve a very important purpose in supporting people. I wonder at the same time if some online connections are ways of retreating from connections in the physical world, and might actually make people more vulnerable to anxiety and depression?
    Jonah Green, LCSW-C

  • Kirsten A.

    December 17th, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    I do have a need for solitude that according to my boyfriend goes beyond what most do. If I don’t get at least an hour a day or preferably two of being all alone, I get agitated. He feels that’s excessive. Is it? I thought it was a reasonable request.

  • daniel

    December 18th, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    lonliness can be real bad for a child and although they may seem to be doing fine with their toys and imaginary stories,no real development is happening!

  • B.Halliday

    December 19th, 2010 at 5:17 AM

    I really miss having my family and friends around whenever I go to a new city on work. Lonliness is something that can be more lethal than an illness if you ask me. There is nothing worse than coming back home from work and not having anyone or not having someone to even hang out with you if you wish to.

  • Sarah

    December 19th, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    When I went to college I went to a school so far from home and I thought that this would be a great way to get away from my parents and create a new me. But as anyone who has ever done this knows, this is a tough step, way harder than what you think that it would be. I was so depressed until I finally realized that this was going to make or break me and I forced myself to get involved with some groups that interested me. Some were big and some were small but all served the purpose of helping me make new friends and most importantly got me out of my dorm room! I did not feel like I wanted to cry all of the time because it gave me the chance to discover who I was and that I could make it on my own. I would not trade this experience for anything because that is what allowed me to spread my wings and get out of that comfort zone that I had created for myself.

  • Maggie W

    December 20th, 2010 at 5:40 AM

    It is hard when you are feeling depressed or even just a little bit dwon to get out of the house and finding a group to get involved with. It almost would be easier if there had been a group that you were involved with before and they would reach out to you and help pull you out of your funk. That is not always going to be the case and I realize this but I know that it must be terribly hard for someone who is feeling so alone to go out and try to get involved with something. Sometimes it must feel like more of an effort than many of them are able to make.

  • cornell crane

    May 1st, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    great article, thank you :)

  • Joyce Salaz

    May 9th, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    I want to talk with others online. I need their advice and I might can help them.

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