Video chat is the “undisputed champion” in staving off depression in older adults when compared to other online communications technologies.
That’s according to investigators who compared video chat, email, social networks and instant messaging used by people ages 60 and older, and gauged self-reported depression two years later. They found that seniors who communicated via video chat functions such as Skype and FaceTime were about half as likely to report depressive symptoms as their peers who used the other options.
In contrast, participants who used email, instant messaging or social media platforms like Facebook had about the same rate of depressive symptoms as their peers who did not use any communication technologies. The results held after adjusting for factors such as pre-existing depression and level of education.
The findings aren’t surprising, said lead author Alan Teo, M.D., a psychiatrist and researcher with the VA Portland Health Care System, in a statement. Face-to-face engagement in video chat is a much different experience than passively scrolling through a Facebook feed.
“[O]ur findings indicate that I’m better off Skyping with my dad in Indiana than sending him a message on WhatsApp,” he said.
The results are even more relevant during the coronavirus crisis, Teo recently told The Atlantic’s Marina Koren: “That’s something that’s been missing in the conversation here, is what are the dangers of missing out on social contact and connection with other people? It’s hard for me to think of a downside to hand-washing … but it is very easy for me to conjure consequences of social distancing that we’re not going to like.”
Data was culled from more than 1,400 participants in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationwide study that has surveyed seniors every two years since 1992.
“Using Skype to Beat the Blues” was published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.