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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