Depression – It’s Contagious

Photo by Tom Szymanski on Flickr
Though it can be fun to occasionally blame your house mate for being a poor influence, scientists at the University of Notre Dame have found a real link between the thought process of college students and their roommate’s risk of depression. The longer a student lived with someone who was more cognitively vulnerable, the greater their own chances of depression. Basically, you really can blame your roommate for making you depressed. Conversely, you can thank their healthy thought patterns for sedating your risk. The odds of being affected depend on whether you are in a major life transition such as moving into a college dorm.

So what is cognitive vulnerability? It’s the way you interpret stressful life events. Do self-blame and the feeling that factors are beyond your control sound familiar? Apparently, thinking this way puts you at an increased risk for depression. Traditionally, researchers believed that these thought patterns were solidified in early adolescence. Well, they were wrong.

Though this research is in its infancy, the knowledge that cognitive vulnerability is adaptable could yield significant benefits. For instance, future interventions could include altering your social environment. For now, it’s best to ensure that you have a healthy, stress-free roommate environment – assuming this exists.  What roommate situations have you survived?

About the author

Melissa Carmen Cheung, PhD

Passionate about sharing science with the public in a fun and accessible way, Melissa is a Medical Communications professional who earned her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Toronto. Though her research focused on the design of novel cancer therapeutics, Melissa is intrigued by all facets of science. Her goal in life is to captivate people with the same excitement she feels for science.