Depressive Symptoms and Momentary Affect
The Role of Social Interaction Variables
Published In: Depression and Anxiety, v. 26, no. 5, May 2009, p. 464-470
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008
BACKGROUND: Interpersonal functioning may be one important factor in the development and course of depression symptomatology. This study used ecological momentary assessment to test the associations among depressive symptoms, social experiences and momentary affect in women. METHODS: Middle-aged women (N=108, M age: 41.6 years, 81% White) completed diary questions on handheld computers for 2 days. Diary items assessed social (conflictive versus supportive) and affective (negative versus positive) experiences at random times during the day. Women also completed a self-report measure of recent depressive symptoms. RESULTS: Multilevel modeling analyses showed that higher levels of symptoms of depression were related to higher negative affect and lower positive affect both directly and indirectly, through experiences of social conflict. Depressive symptoms were not significantly related to socially supportive interactions. In an alternative model testing the reverse association, neither positive nor negative affect significantly predicted social experiences. Generalizability is limited by the homogenous small sample and strict inclusionary criteria (working full-time or part-time, cohabitating or married, healthy). Due to the cross sectional nature of the data as well as the manner in which social and affective experiences were assessed, definitive conclusions regarding the temporal associations among depression symptoms, social functioning, and affect are not possible. Results are consistent with prior reports suggesting the salience of socially conflictive experiences, and the role of affect, in the etiology and maintenance of depression symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Interventions that attempt to decrease socially conflictive experiences via cognitive-behavioral skills training, whereas concomitantly targeting positive and negative affect, could help prevent the development of full-blown depressive episodes in vulnerable individuals.