Mode Of Contact Affects Depressive Symptoms In Older Adults

A recently published longitudinal study in older adults examined the association between different types of social contact with the risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. Social isolation has long been considered a risk for depression and researchers were determined to see if social interaction, and the mode of social interaction played a role when it comes to depression.

The different modes of contact examined were in-person, telephone, and written contact. The frequency of use of each of these modes of contact was analyzed, as well as depressive symptoms using the eight-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Data was collected from adults aged 50 and over who participated in the Health and Retirement Survey in the United States between the years 2004 and 2010.

Results showed that telephone contact was the most frequently used in this population, followed by in-person contact. Written or email contact was used the least out of all forms of communication.

With increased frequency of in-person social interaction researchers observed a lower risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. Researchers also found that in-person contact specifically with friends, reduced the risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. However, if in-person interactions also included interpersonal conflict, then the risk of depressive symptoms was greater.

Currently there are questions regarding the quality of other forms of social media interactions, and if these types of interactions have the same health benefits of in-person interactions. From these findings we might predict that social media and other forms of online communication may not be as protective as in-person contact, when it comes to reducing the risk of depressive symptoms. Current findings would suggest that efforts should be made to increase the frequency and quality of in-person interactions with elderly populations in an effort to reduce the risk of depressive symptoms.

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