Even Depression May Not Dim Thoughts of Bright Future

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MONDAY, Oct. 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Even adults with depression are generally optimistic about the future, a new study shows.

But that finding carries its own caveat, the researchers added.

"It turns out that even clinically depressed individuals are also characterized by the belief that one's life in the future will be more satisfying than one's past and current life," lead researcher Michael Busseri, a psychological scientist at Brock University in Canada, said in an Association for Psychological Science news release.

"And this pattern of beliefs appears to be a risk factor for future depression, even over a 10-year period," he said.

But psychologists and counselors could possibly turn that into a positive, Busseri added.

"The fact that even depressed individuals can envision their lives being more satisfying in the future may provide clinicians and mental health workers with a valuable new avenue for intervention, for example, through focusing on helping individuals develop concrete goals and realistic plans for achieving a more satisfying future life," he said.

In conducting the study, the researchers examined national survey data involving middle-aged Americans. The information was compiled in two intervals that were 10 years apart. The first wave of the study included adults aged 45 or younger.

Specifically, the participants rated their past, present and future life satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10 -- 10 being the best possible life. The researchers also assessed the participants' symptoms of depression through a clinical interview.

Overall, the investigators found those with signs of depression reported lower life satisfaction in their past, present and future than people who were not depressed. All of the participants, however, believed that life would get better.

"What we don't know yet is whether this improved future life is actually something that depressed individuals feel they will achieve," Busseri said. "It's possible, for example, that envisioning a brighter future is a form of wishful thinking rather than a sign of encouragement and hope."

The researchers also found that low life satisfaction in the past and present were both linked to a greater risk for depression a decade later.

"An important next step is determine whether modifying individuals' subjective trajectories -- making them more realistic, or 'flatter' -- might attenuate [ease] symptoms of depression, or longer-term risk of depression," added Busseri.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on depression.