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Housework and the Depression Link

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 14 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Depression Anxiety Housework Research

Many people dread daily housework and see it as a chore they would far rather avoid than complete for a clean house. Yet, a new study suggests that housework can actually help to treat the symptoms of depression.

This new research comes on the heel of older research that indicated the exact opposite – housework could increase depression.

To understand how two studies can differ so greatly, it's important to look at how they were performed and exactly what they found in the research.

Older Research Into Depression and Housework

A 2002 study showed that housework such as dusting, ironing and cleaning could make a person depressed. After surveying people on their home or work and leisure activities, researchers found that housework had a tendency to lower a person's mood. Researchers used a depression monitor that is known as a hospital and anxiety depression scale. After using this scale, researchers found that housework had a negative effect on people.

Study Results

They found that with activities such as exercise, the more people did the better they felt. However, with housework it was the opposite – the more people did the worse they felt. Still, researchers did also say that doing a lot of housework could make a person feel depressed for other reasons, such as being stuck in the house and not being active and socialising.

With this particular study, it contrasts quite a bit with new research suggesting that housework can help depression. One reason for such a discrepancy might be that the new study looked at smaller bouts of housework. It could be that the physical activity portion of housework combined with the gratification of seeing things become much cleaner serves to lift a person's spirits and improve depression.

Housework to Help Depression

Researchers in an earlier 2008 study found that by doing just twenty minutes a week of housework, people were able to improve their moods and help treat the symptoms of depression. Researchers initially began studying how different kinds of activities affected people who suffered from depression.

They looked at information provided from twenty thousand surveys in Scotland. Approximately 3200 people who had responded to surveys suffered from anxiety or depression. However, those people who performed sports or did housework on a regular basis were the least likely to suffer from depression. In fact, a single twenty-minute session of housework or even just going for a walk reduced a person's risk of suffering from depression by twenty percent.

Sports for Depression

Sports clocked in higher with a reduced depression risk of more than one third. Researchers think that ultimately, performing physical activity boosts the body's production of 'feel good' chemicals such as endorphins, with exercise having a significant effect and improving a person's mood as more is performed.

When it comes to housework though, it appears that a small, twenty-minute burst is sufficient for helping depression but based on the earlier housework and depression study, more housework may have the opposite effect.

Handling Depression

Depression affects millions of people each year and can be challenging to treat for some people. New research such as the studies investigating the link between housework and depression are important to yield clues as to how depression can more effectively be treated. While your primary care and treatment should be under the guidance of your doctor, you might still want to pick up the broom and go for those twenty minutes of housework. For some people, they may not only get a clean house, but a positive mood as well.

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