Put Down the Phone and Meet Face-to-Face to Fight Depression, Researchers Say

Put Down the Phone and Meet Face-to-Face to Fight Depression, Researchers Say

Skipping out on the group again? You may regret it in a couple of years.

You’ve probably felt it intuitively, but never knew if it mattered: does it really make any difference if you meet your friends or family in person or not this weekend?

Of course, you want to touch base and spend time. But it can be easy to ‘get too busy’ and skip out on get-togethers, opting to chat on the phone or send a lengthy email instead.

But this can come at a price. A study from Oregon Health and Science University has found that this can lead to increasing your risk of developing depression.

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“Research has long-supported the idea that strong social bonds strengthen people’s mental health. But this is the first look at the role that the type of communication with loved ones and friends plays in safeguarding people from depression. We found that all forms of socialization aren’t equal,” said Alan Teo, M.D., M.S., the study’s lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University.

In their study involving more than 11,000 adults aged 50 and older in the U.S, researchers found that talking on the phone and communicating via email and other digital ways with friends or family members didn’t have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression.

Here are the specifics. Researchers found that:

-If you have little face-to-face social contact, it nearly doubles your risk of having depression two years down the line,

-talking less on the phone and writing fewer emails? This has no effect on depression,

-if you meet up with family and friends at least three times a week,  you’ll have the lowest level of depressive symptoms two years later at 6.5 percent,

-meeting your friends just once every few months or less frequently gives you an 11.5 percent chance of developing depressive symptoms,

-people aged 50 to 69 benefit more from in-person contact with friends,

-individuals 70 and older benefit most from in-person contact with their children and other family members.

The moral of the story? Get to that reunion, go to that luncheon and have the whole group over for cards, even if it seems inconvenient. It’ll be fun, and it’s easier to clean up cracker crumbs than treat the blues.

Photo credits: YUTTANA HONGTANSAWAT/Shutterstock.com

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