The Hug Drug – friendship heals

The Hug Drug – friendship heals – Brief Article

Natasha Raymond

It just may be that no drug is more effective than a good, meaningful chat. In a new study, British researchers have demonstrated the healing power of friendship.

A group of chronically depressed women living in London were randomly assigned to receive a volunteer “befriender” or were placed on a waiting list for one. The befrienders were instructed to be confidants to the depressed women, meeting them regularly for chats over coffee or outings.

Tirril Harris, Ph.D., of Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’ schools of medicine in London reports in the Journal of Psychiatry that among the women who saw their volunteer friends regularly throughout the year, 72% experienced a remission in depression compared with just 45% in the control group. That’s about the same success rate as antidepressants or cognitive therapy, says Harris.

The women who benefited most from the friendship prescription typically experienced some kind of “fresh start”: they reconnected or made amends with a person who was estranged from them, or left an unpleasant job for another that seemed more promising.

In one case, Janet, a depressed woman who took part in the study, had been working overtime for no extra pay. Her befriender pointed out that this was unfair and suggested she ask for compensation. Janet approached her boss, who was “amenable and apologetic,” Harris recalls. “These types of experiences–an acknowledgment of respect–made the formerly depressed women start to feel differently about themselves and about the world.”

COPYRIGHT 1999 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group