In-Person Contact Reduces PTSD and Depression in Military Veterans
Node Smith, ND
A great new study supports in-person social interactions as protective against depression and PTSD symptoms. The study found that this protection was not seen with other social outlets, such as phone, email or social media interaction – Facebook. The study was conducted by the VA Portland Health Care System and Oregon Health and Science University.
Time spent in-person with friends and family matters most
Dr. Alan Teo, lead author on the paper, summed up the findings this way: “When we look at a head-to-head comparison of time spent socializing on Facebook vs. face-to-face, it is the time spent in-person with our friends and family that probably matters most to reducing symptoms of depression and PTSD in Veterans.”
Mental health and in-person social interaction
It is generally acknowledged that social isolation is intimately connected with poor mental health outcomes. Emotional issues, depression and anxiety are thought to be buffered to a certain degree by social interaction, however, it may be that this social interaction need be in-person versus over the internet.
Study recruited 587 veterans
The study recruited 587 veterans via an online Facebook ad. They were all surveyed as to the amount of time they spent with family or friends on a daily basis as well as on Facebook. Each participant was also asked about PTSD, depression, alcohol use and suicidality.
Regular in-person contact had a 50 percent lower risk for both PTSD and depression
Those who had regular in-person contact throughout the week had a 50 percent lower risk for both PTSD and depression compared with those who saw family or friends sporadically. The researchers caution against a clear cut causal relationship, as it may be that mental health conditions lead to more social isolation – and likely there is a bidirectional relationship, or cycle occurring.
Veterans are a high-risk group for both PTSD and depression
The overarching conclusions of the study, however, are that social interaction is important for mental health, and especially for veterans. Veterans are a high-risk group for both PTSD and depression. Teo, had a great comment regarding the excitement of utilizing online social platforms to increase socialization in patients, “I think the excitement in the VA and other health systems about the opportunities associated with online interventions is great. But at the same time, this study is a bit of a reminder that the foundation to good mental health care probably starts with promoting good, old-fashioned social connections,” he says.
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.