People with mild depression underestimate their talents. However, new research carried out researchers at the University of Limerick and the University of Hertfordshire shows that depressed people are more accurate when it comes to time estimation than their happier peers.
Depressed people often appear to distort the facts and view their lives more negatively than non-depressed people. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness and of being out of control are some of the main symptoms of depression. For these people time seems to pass slowly and they will often use phrases such as "time seems to drag" to describe their experiences and their life. However, depressed people sometimes have a more accurate perception of reality than their happier friends and family who often look at life through rose-tinted glasses and hope for the best.
Dr Rachel Msetfi, senior lecturer in psychology, University of Limerick and one of the studies authors, said: "We found that depressed people tended to be more accurate when estimating time whereas non-depressed people tended to be less accurate. This finding, along with some of our other work, suggests that depression leads to more attention paid to time passing. Sometimes this might lead to a phenomenon known as 'depressive realism', though on other occasions time might seem to be moving more slowly than usual."
In the study, volunteers, who were classified as mildly depressed or non-depressed, made estimates of the length of different time intervals of between two and sixty-five seconds. Overall, those volunteers who were mildly - depressed were more accurate in their time estimations.
Dr Msetfi noted that: "Time is a very important part of everyday experience, it flies when we are having fun or enjoying ourselves. One of the commonest experiences of depression is that people feel that time passes slowly and sometimes painfully. Our findings may help to shed a little light on how people with depression can be treated. People with depression are often encouraged to check themselves against reality, but maybe this timing skill can be harnessed to help in the treatment of mildly-depressed people. These findings may also link to successful mindfulness based treatments for depression which focus on encouraging present moment awareness."