The impact of loneliness and social adaptation on depressive symptoms: Behavioral and brain measures evidence from a brain health perspective

Daniel Franco-O´Byrne, Raul Gonzalez-Gomez, Juan Pablo Morales Sepúlveda, Mayte Vergara, Agustin Ibañez, David Huepe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Early detection of depression is a cost-effective way to prevent adverse outcomes on brain physiology, cognition, and health. Here we propose that loneliness and social adaptation are key factors that can anticipate depressive symptoms. Methods: We analyzed data from two separate samples to evaluate the associations between loneliness, social adaptation, depressive symptoms, and their neural correlates. Results: For both samples, hierarchical regression models on self-reported data showed that loneliness and social adaptation have negative and positive effects on depressive symptoms. Moreover, social adaptation reduces the impact of loneliness on depressive symptoms. Structural connectivity analysis showed that depressive symptoms, loneliness, and social adaptation share a common neural substrate. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis demonstrated that only social adaptation was associated with connectivity in parietal areas. Discussion: Altogether, our results suggest that loneliness is a strong risk factor for depressive symptoms while social adaptation acts as a buffer against the ill effects of loneliness. At the neuroanatomical level, loneliness and depression may affect the integrity of white matter structures known to be associated to emotion dysregulation and cognitive impairment. On the other hand, socio-adaptive processes may protect against the harmful effects of loneliness and depression. Structural and functional correlates of social adaptation could indicate a protective role through long and short-term effects, respectively. These findings may aid approaches to preserve brain health via social participation and adaptive social behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1096178
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • brain health
  • depressive symptoms
  • loneliness
  • neural correlates
  • social adaptation


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