Technology affords us unparalleled convenience – we can check in on Mom or Dad frequently with a quick phone call or text message even if they live hundreds or thousands of miles away. However, recent research has found that remote communication does not compare to in-person visits when it comes to preventing depression in older adults.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, analyzed data from over 11,000 adults over the age of 50 who were part of the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Survey between 2004 and 2010. The data looked at how often the participants interacted with family and friends using four different methods: in-person, telephone, e-mail or written letter. Symptoms of depression were then assessed two years later.
Results from the study revealed that older adults with minimal in-person contact doubled their risk of depression. Only 6.5% of participants who had in-person contact three times a week were at risk for symptoms of depression, while 11.5% of participants who had in-person contact once every few months were at risk. The frequency of phone calls, e-mails and letters had no effect on the risk for depression.
Taking this a step further, the research team found that for adults aged 50 to 69 years old, frequent in-person contact with friends lowered their risk of depression, while adults aged 70 and older saw the most benefits from in-person contact with family.
About 7% of the world’s senior population suffers from depression, though depression is often underdiagnosed. Past research has suggested that lack of social interaction is a major contributor to depression among seniors. If you live near a senior loved one, the benefits he or she will receive from a weekly or bi-weekly in-person visit will be well worth it. If you live far away from a senior loved one, advocate that he or she join a community club or group that is centered around his or her favorite hobby or activity. Although technology makes it easier to stay in touch with loved ones, nothing beats face-to-face social engagement.
Maintaining active social ties is one of five key lifestyle factors we recommend as a part of our Balanced Care Method™, a holistic approach to senior care based on the studies of the longest-living and healthiest people on Earth. The Method also focuses on healthy eating, physical activity, mental engagement and promoting calm to boost healthy longevity.