Journal of Community Psychology

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The role of perceived friend depression and perceived stigma on self‐reported depression among individuals who use drugs


Depression and substance use are highly comorbid, and stigmatized, mental health conditions influenced by social network factors. The objective of this study was to explore the role of perceived depression and perceived mental health stigma among friends on self‐reported depression over time. Between 2009 and 2012, 527 participants who used drugs completed baseline and 6‐month follow‐up surveys in Baltimore, Maryland. Logistic regression was used to assess whether perceived depression and stigma among friends were associated with personal depressive status before and after accounting for depressive status at baseline. A total of 309 participants (58.6%) had depressive symptoms at baseline, while 207 participants (39.3%) had depressive symptoms at follow‐up. Not accounting for baseline depression, perceiving friends as being depressed (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.32, 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.12, 1.56]) and as having stigmatizing attitudes toward mental health conditions (AOR = 1.92, 95% CI [1.31, 2.79]) were associated with increased odds of personal depression. After accounting for baseline depression, the relationship between personal depression and perceived stigma was marginally significant, while the relationship between personal depression and perceived depression among friends was attenuated. These results suggest that baseline depression is the largest predictor of follow‐up depression. Future research should explore whether specific aspects of perceived stigma independently account for personal depression.

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