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Increased social anhedonia and reduced helping behaviour in young people with high depressive symptomatology

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Setterfield, M., Walsh, M., Frey, A.-L. and McCabe, C. (2016) Increased social anhedonia and reduced helping behaviour in young people with high depressive symptomatology. Journal of Affective Disorders, 205. pp. 372-377. ISSN 0165-0327

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.020

Abstract/Summary

Background: Social anhedonia, the decreased enjoyment of pleasant social experiences, is associated with depression. However, whether social anhedonia in depression affects prosocial behaviours is unclear. The current study aimed to examine how high levels of depressive symptomatology in young people affect responses to usually rewarding social situations including helping behaviour. Methods: We recruited 46 females, 16 scoring high on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI scores ≥ 20; Mage = 19; HD) and 30 scoring low (BDI ≤ 10, Mage = 20; LD). In a social emotion task (SET), participants were presented with social scenarios and asked to rate their expected emotional responses. Subsequently, participants’ helping behaviour was measured by dropping a pile of papers near them and recording their responses. Lastly, participants completed the SET again. Results: The SET at time 1 revealed that HD individuals reported significantly stronger negative (p <.001) and weaker positive (p <.05) emotional responses to social situations than LD subjects. Additionally, all participants showed a significant increase in positive responses (p <.05) on the SET between time 1 and time 2. Moreover, HD subjects were less likely to engage in actual helping behaviour than LD participants. Limitations: Limitations of the study are that only females were tested and that no psychiatric screening interview was conducted. Conclusions: Our results indicate that young females with high levels of depression symptoms expect to respond less positively to social situations and engage less in helping behaviour compared to those with low depressive symptomatology. Social anhedonia in depression may thus contribute to decreased engagement in rewarding social situations. This, in turn, may lead to social withdrawal and might maintain depression symptoms though a lack of exposure to positive social feedback.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:66437
Publisher:Elsevier

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