Altruism can Help in Preventing Teen Depression


There is good news for adolescents who have been affected by teen depression and the parents of these young people because a recent study reveals that those teens who enjoy helping others are less prone to be affected by depression than those children who are selfish minded and who like risk taking for earning rewards.

Methodology of the study

In this study, children of age 15 or 16 were involved and they were asked to do three tasks. One of the tasks was to provide help and money to the needy, the second task was to use the funds for their own needs and the third task was to take risks and use the money for the purpose of earning returns or rewards.

The methodology adopted by the researchers was to monitor the levels of activity in Ventral Striatum, an area in the human brain where feelings like pleasure and happiness that are reward-linked are governed. These teens were involved in this study at the beginning of the research and after a period of one year also. Researchers checked these young people to find out if the teen depression symptoms in them decreased or increased depending on these tasks.

Difference in affliction by depression symptoms

Researchers studied the activity levels in the ventral striatum in those teens who enjoyed helping others. Amazingly, they found that there were no depression symptoms or there was a marked decrease in the symptoms at the end of the year. They also studied the activity levels in the ventral striatum in teens who were selfish and who took risk and used their money with an aim to earn returns or rewards. They found that throughout the year, these teens remained more susceptible to be affected by depression symptoms. The findings of this study were published online.

According to the author of the study, Eva Telzer, who is a professor of psychology in Illinois University, higher activation levels in ventral striatum due to rewards in risk-taking tasks may show increases in depressive symptoms in due course of time. If higher reward activation happens due to pro-social activities, depression symptoms will decrease.

Pro-social behavior may protect children from teen depression

She adds that if adolescents are redirected from rewards out of risk-taking activities that are self-centered and inspired to engage in pro-social activities, it can positively impact their well-being very soon.

Previous researches have focused only on the links between the levels of activation in ventral striatum and risk taking behaviors of teens. These past studies revealed that teens experienced more intense pleasure when they got rewards from their risk taking behaviors than what adults or very young children experienced.

How Parents Can Help

In a nutshell, the findings of the study reveal that the activity of the ventral striatum in teens when they carry out altruistic activities may positively impact them, thus protecting them from problems like depression. So, parents can encourage their children to involve themselves in altruistic activities so that they can be free from the fear of being affected by teen depression.

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