Coping with Depression: Examining How Exercise, Social Support, and Other Strategies Relate to Depressive Symptoms



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Research indicates young adults (ages 18 - 25) are at a high risk of developing depressive symptoms (Richards & Perri, 2002). This population exhibits poor utilization of mental health reatment services (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008). Research has suggested implementing self-help strategies for dealing with one's depressive symptoms is better than doing nothing, and these strategies are most effective with milder levels of depression (Menchola, Arkowitz, & Burke, 2007). The current study examined the relationships between depressive symptoms, coping strategies, exercise, and social support in young adults not participating in mental health treatment. One hundred and twenty -one introductory to psychology students completed the study. Avoidant coping, exercise, positive social support, and negative social support were found to be related to current depressive levels. Specifically, avoidant coping and negative social support were related to more depressive symptoms, while exercise and positive social support were related to fewer symptoms. Avoidant coping was also found to be the strongest predictor of depressive level and had the most influence on change in depressive level. Moreover, positive and negative social support were found to be independently related to depressive symptoms, with negative social support being the stronger of these two. Finally, positive social support from friends was found to be more predictive of current depressive level than positive support from family. The implications of these results will be discussed.