BACKGROUND Earlier work on the protective role of social support in onset and course of depressive disorder suggested that its provision might be relevant for outcome.
AIMS To evaluate volunteer befriending as an intervention among women with chronic depression in inner London.
METHOD A randomised controlled trial, with a waiting list control design, with outcome measured as Present State Examination (PSE)-based full or partial remission after one year.
RESULTS A statistically significant effect upon remission was found for befriending. Other treatments monitored naturalistically did not relate to remission, nor did initial duration of chronic episode or comorbidity, but there was an association with initial PSE score. The findings are discussed in relation to standard drug-trial results and to another befriending intervention with the elderly.
CONCLUSIONS The results are not unpromising. Additional trials with less restricted intake conditions, and in more naturalistic general practice settings, might confirm volunteer befriending as a useful adjunct to current treatments.