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According to the recent findings of a United States research study, frequent visits with their children or friends could help eliminate the threat of depression in older adults. Frequent visits work better at staving off depression than a phone call or a hand-written letter or card.
Dr. Alan Teo, a psychiatrist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and lead study researcher said, “The key finding is that meeting friends and family face to face acts as strong preventative medicine for depression, and specifically we found the more often you got together with a person, the lower the risk of depression.”
Phone contact worked in helping someone who already had depression. Dr. Teo and his team of researchers noted in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
In 2006, a national survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 8 percent of adults aged 50 years and older were depressed and 16 percent had experienced depression in their lifetime.
Email and written contact showed no benefit to the receiver and did nothing to alleviate depression.
In the past, research had suggested that lack of social contact with friends and family could possibly make an elderly person feel lonely, isolated and depressed the authors noted. However, much of that research combined different methods of contact.
Dr. Teo visited with his father, in his 70s, on a regular basis and it was these visits that inspired the study.
Teo stated,” I thought about when I do get together face-to-face, how meaningful it is.”
Between 2004 and 2010, 11,065 adults participated in the study and the participants were in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Each participant was given the survey two times. Researchers questioned their social contacts, interpersonal conflicts, any depressive symptoms, appetite loss, ability to complete daily living activities and cognitive abilities.
At the time of the original survey, as well as two years later, about 13 percent of participants had experienced major depressive symptoms.
When taking age, wealth, ability to complete daily living activities, house size and social support, those who visited with their family or friends less than two times every few months had an 11 percent chance of depressive symptoms two years later. This was compared with an 8 percent risk factor in those who had once or twice monthly contact. Those who had contact with friends or loved ones three or more times a week only experienced a 6 percent risk of depression.
However, when visiting with a child, family member or friend who caused the person to experience interpersonal strife, the risk of depression increased.
Calling or writing an elderly loved one just isn’t enough. Researchers found that regularly visiting with your elderly family member or friend will help them feel included, loved and remembered. Meeting with peer support groups and other support groups can also help older adults stave off depression. Dr. Teo said, “I think there’s a suggestion that the younger folks should make a concerted effort to reach out in person with those who are older.”
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