Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
While depression is an unmistakably taxing illness that presents what may feel like insurmountable difficulties, a new study published in Nature Human Behavior found that a positive character trait belies this mental illness. As Motherboard reports, those who are more susceptible to depression are more selfless and empathetic.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers asked participants to play a money-based game with a strong element of economic inequality and unfairness to it. Those who showed elevated brain activity in areas associated with depression while playing the game were also more likely to demonstrate signs of clinical depression down the line. More specifically, some participants, dubbed the prosocials, rejected money from unfair offers that didn't promote equality for all, while others, the individualists, were more willing to accept the money despite obvious inequities.
"People with depression commonly demonstrate increased concern for others or for the perspectives of others," explains the science publication. "More precisely, prosocial attitudes predict depression, which is in contrast to individualist attitudes. Individualist here basically just means selfish or relatively selfish."
For example, those with a prosocial attitude are more willing to help others or society as a whole without the expectation of a reward. "Prosocials have an almost unrivaled capacity to give up their time and energy for others, even at a cost to themselves," write Megan Speer and Mauricio Delgado, psychology researchers from Rutgers University, of the new study. Unfortunately, that same "deep empathetic concern for disadvantage" can ultimately weigh a prosocial person down emotionally, resulting in mental health issues like depression.
Head over to Motherboard for more, and share your thoughts on the new study in the comments.