Face-to-face visits play a key role in battling depression among elderly patients, a new study finds. While texts, phone calls and emails may be the more convenient means to communicate, they just don’t have the same effect on seniors as a good, in-person visit does.
Study participants who regularly saw family and friends experienced lower rates of depression than those who only spoke on the phone or emailed family and friends. The benefits of face-to-face visits seemed to endure for years after, having a significant lasting effect on the mental health of seniors.
Seniors did not visit with family or friends at least every few months experienced significantly higher chances of reporting signs of clinical depression within two years. Those without visits had a depression rate of about 11.5%, while those who were visited once or twice a month had a rate of around 8%. The greater frequency of visits, the less likely the chance of developing depression.
The most important thing that can be taken from this study is that not all forms of socialization are equal. While family and friends may experience comfort through emails and phone calls, these forms of interaction do not have as great of an effect in staving off depression as a face-to-face interaction does.
The results of the study are not novel or particularly shocking, but rather they go to prove what we have long known: strong social bonds play a crucial role in maintaining mental health.
An unrelated study of elderly patients in Hong Kong found that though strong social bonds did play a role in combating depression, ultimately material aid and instrumental support were more important in preventing depression.