Being cheered up by your friends when you feel down is something we all count on, but it turns out that having that emotional boost given in person is much more valuable rather than via telephone or email.
Depression is easier to ward off in person, says a new study from Oregon Health & Science University, showing that older adults benefit a lot more from face-to-face interactions than digital ones.
Published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the research suggests that older adults who saw their friends and family in person on a regular basis were 5 percent less at risk of developing symptoms of depression, compared to those who still remained in contact with their loved ones, but via email or phone.
Even though researchers are yet unsure as to why caused this, the reaped benefits lasted for more than two years. Dr. Alan Teo, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the university, explained that the magic ingredient remains a mystery still, but the effects of meeting up in-person in order to prevent future depression sure works.
Data collected from a study conducted by the University of Michigan is the basis for this research, including information on more than 11,000 adults over the age of 50. Researchers with the University measured the frequency of social interactions in their various forms, in-person, by phone or written.
In a two-year follow-up after collecting that data, researchers examined the participants’ risk for depression. Various factors were taken into consideration, such as physical health, pre-existing depression, and proximity to close family.
Results were surprising; those who reported little face-to-face contact with friends and family turned out to have an almost double the risk of developing depression. At the same time, the risk of becoming depressed was in no way influenced by emails, phone calls and other types of communication, no matter how frequent they were.
Spending time with the family at least three times a week translated in a really low risk for depression, which was found only in 6.5 percent of the participants. Depressive symptoms were more likely to appear among older adults who saw their loved ones every few months.
Even though this study dealt with depression in older adults, the authors are positive the results could also apply to the younger demographic. However, further research is needed in order to establish the range of the age spectrum.
Teo concluded that although social media and phone calls are not bad things that we need to avoid, “it seems hard to beat a good old-fashioned face-to-face visit when it comes to depression prevention.”
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