That quick chat over the phone, even if it’s a weekly tradition, doesn’t do as much for your loved one as an in-person visit a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society says.
How frequently adults aged 50 and older received visitors, and who they were, was just one type of data researchers collected from a University of Michigan study that surveyed 11,000 people. The participants filled out surveys every two years between 2004 and 2011 so researchers could track changes, and they answered a range of social questions that also involved self-reported signs of depression.
Participants who met with friends or family members--in person, not through phone calls--at least three times a week were the least likely to report suffering from symptoms of depression. In fact, only 6.5% of people who socialized this often reported symptoms. And in the participants aged 70 and older, the symptoms were reported even less frequently when the visits came from family members rather than friends.
The lead author of the study, Alan Teo, acknowledges that calling might be a great first step, but regular visits should be seen as “preventive medicine, like getting a regular dose of vitamins.” So, by all means continue to pick up the phone, but use some of that time to schedule some face time if you live close enough.