Face-to-Face Communication Among Seniors Best To Ward Off Depression

the Psychiatry Advisor take:

Face-to-face communication is better for older people in reducing potential symptoms of depression as opposed to digital communication or talking on the phone.

Alan Teo, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, and a researcher at the VA Portland Health Care System, and colleagues analyzed more than 11,000 adults aged 50 and older who took part in the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan. They looked at the type of contact they participated in and how frequently they engaged in it.

They then looked at the risk of depression two years later, after adjusting for health status, how far from family they lived, and pre-existing depression. Having little face-to-face contact almost doubled the risk of having depression two years later, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The number of phone conversations or written or email contact had no impact on depression.

Study participants who met up with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms two years later, at just 6.5%. In comparison, individuals who met up just once every few months or less frequently had an 11.5% chance of depressive symptoms.

Depression Common in Final Year of Life
Seniors who met up with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms at 6.5%.

In a slight knock on digital and telephone communications, a new study points to the unsurpassed mental health benefits of regular face-to-face social interactions among older adults. Study participants who regularly met in person with family and friends were less likely to report symptoms of depression, compared with participants who emailed or spoke on the phone. The gains people derived from face-to-face socializing endured even years later. The findings were published online today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers assessed more than 11,000 adults aged 50 and older in the United States who participated in the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan. They examined the frequency of in-person, telephone and written social contact, including email.

Then they looked at the risk of depression symptoms two years later, adjusting for potential confounding factors including health status, how close people lived from family and pre-existing depression.

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