Personal Contact Boosts Mental Health of Aging Parents

iStock_000008951008XSmall-300x158.jpgFace time is harder and harder to come by, but aging parents and other seniors need to experience personal contact in order to help maintain their mental health and ward off depression. At least that’s the conclusion of a recent study.

Personal Contact

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently published a new study entitled “Does Mode of Contact with Different Types of Social Relationships Predict Depression in Older Adults? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey.​” The goal of this study was to look at three different forms of contact — in person, by telephone, and written or email — and to see if people responded differently to the different forms.

The data were gathered from more than 11,000 people over the age of 50 who responded to a national survey. Not surprisingly, it was determined that the amount of actual in person, face-to-face contact played a big role in better mental health. While phone or written contact was certainly enjoyed by many people, it was the in person contact that made the real difference.

According to the study, those who had in person contact with friends and family members only every few months were 11.5% more likely to develop depressive symptoms within 2 years.  The risk was much less likely for those who had such contact once or twice a month, and even less likely for people who had such contact once or twice a week.

Face Time

This is, of course, common sense. No matter how much one enjoys visiting with a friend on the phone or catching up by email, engaging in direct person-to-person interaction is more stimulating and more fully engaging.

Many aging parents are in a situation where regular social contact may be difficult. Mobility or health issues can make it difficult for some aging parents to see friends as often as they might like. With that in mind, it’s beneficial if a caregiver can help to plan social interactions and make them happen.

Efforts at keeping aging loved ones' moods more positive can play a significant role in their happiness and in their long term health.​

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