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Psychol Med. 2004 Apr;34(3):533-41.

The relationship between social support, depression and treatment for depression in people with multiple sclerosis.

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Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, USA.



Studies have been fairly consistent in finding a relationship between social support and depression. However, little is known about the relationship between depression and social support in the context of treatment for depression. This study examined the effects of treatment for depression on social support among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).


Sixty-three moderately depressed MS patients received 16 weeks of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), supportive expressive group psychotherapy (SEGP) or sertraline. Depression was measured using the Beck Depression Inventory and social support was measured using Arizona Social Support Interview Schedule.


Treatment for depression was associated with significant increases in perceived social support, utilized social support and satisfaction with support, as well as reduction in need for emotional support. There were no significant changes in structural support or need for physical support. There were also no differences in change in social support across treatments. All changes in social support were fully explained by depression. Improvements in utilized social support and satisfaction with social support were fully mediated by improvements in depression. Baseline depression predicted improvements in perceived support and need for emotional support.


These findings suggest that improvements in social support among MS patients during treatment for depression can be explained by depression. However, different domains of social support may be differentially sensitive to changes in depression.

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