Analogue Studies Do Not Aid Depression Knowledge

Topics: Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Dysthymia Pages: 6 (1963 words) Published: January 27, 2013
The use of distressed college students as analogues for depression research, however, is not sufficient in meaningfully advancing our current knowledge of depression and its treatment. Due to ease of access and convenience, the excessive reliance on this sample has made some researchers neglect crucial and noteworthy differences. This paper will address these critical differences including severity and symptomatology, issues of generalizability and problems with the psychometrics. Lastly, this paper will illustrate how research of college students as analogue samples does not need to be discontinued; rather, several suggestions to improve this research will be explored. Currently, there are two views in the literature regarding depression: the continuity view which claims depression differs in degree (quantitative difference) and suggests using college samples is justified, and the discontinuity view which suggests depression differs in kind (qualitative difference) (Flett, Vredenburg, & Krames, 1997). Although some support for the discontinuity view exists (see Flett, Vredenburg, & Krames, 1997), most researchers currently accept that depression differs in degrees as stated by the continuity view. However, just as general unhappiness cannot be equated with pathology, studying distress in college students should not be used to make inferences about clinical depression. The experience of distress is not as severe as depression, and more importantly, it is transient (Coyne, 1994). Some researchers have suggested that students who experience this transient nature of mild distress are at a greater risk for developing depression later on; however, this claim has yet to be proven (Coyne, 1994). The stressors that can spiral an individual into depression are different for students and patients who have already been diagnosed with the disorder. Being a student in an unfamiliar environment with new-found freedom and strict expectations can be daunting; nonetheless, these stressors are generally mild and last for a brief period of time (Coyne, 1994). For instance, take into account interpersonal experiences such as a breakup (Coyne, 1994). Contrary to people in the general population, students do not experience similar stressors that accompany the loss of a relationship, such as economic instability or the burden of raising young children. This implies that college students are not entirely dependent on such close ties. One may argue the two groups are similar because the basic emotions that are experienced after the dissolution of a close relationship are the same. However, when the environment is examined, it becomes clear that the college environment acts as a buffer and often protects students from becoming depressed because of its interactive and social nature (Coyne, 1994). In fact, they are part of a large group of same aged and single students in an environment that encourages social interaction; therefore, they are not heavily reliant on this one specific relationship. Considering this, using students as an analogue can be problematic, since research suggests marriage dissolution is a strong facilitator of depression (Coyne, 1994). Moreover, it becomes difficult to make comparisons to the overall population, as college samples are non-representative of the general population. For instance, on average, depressed individuals who experience their first episode of depression are older than the students being studied (Coyne, 1994). Students are a select group and this makes it difficult to generalize the results since they often come from better socioeconomic backgrounds and are relatively more intelligent and verbal. Even the students themselves recognize that they are different from the general population, as they consider themselves to be the happier, better adjusted and skilful group (Coyne, 1994). Another important finding is the lack of gender differences found when using measures of depression among college...
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