Friends help in recovery from depression

Thomas House

Manchester mathematician Thomas House, in collaboration with Ed Hill and Frances Griffiths at Warwick, recently published an article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B using mathematics to look at the spreading of depression and healthy mood in adolescent social networks. The study found that using new mathematical methods that reduced the room for ‘false positive’ results, depression did not spread while having sufficient friends with healthy mood doubled the chances of recovery from and halved the probability of developing depression over a 6-12 month period. This result has been widely reported in the national and international media. 

The mathematics involved made use of the theory of stochastic (random) processes, as well as the theory of networks, and advanced computationally intensive statistical methodology. Dr House provides more detail on his website and says: 'Epidemiology is the observational study of patterns of disease in the human population, and suffers from various problems such as ‘confounding’, or trying to infer causes from correlations. Advanced mathematics can help us to disentangle these issues and make a contribution to public heath.'

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