A major study has found that people who meet up with friends and family at least three times a week are much less likely to have depression than those who only have virtual contact.
Interestingly, communicating with our loved ones via telephone, email or social media was found to have no impact on happiness with the benefits only being noticeable with actual face-to-face contact.
Replacing physical contact with technology was found to increase our chances of suffering from depression by an incredible 50%. Even individuals who have face-to-face contact every few months are still 11.5% more likely to suffer depressive symptoms.
The lead author of the study which was carried out by the University of Michigan, Dr Alan Teo commented:
“Research has long supported the idea that strong social bonds strengthen people’s mental health but this is the first look at the role that the type of communication with loved ones plays in safeguarding people from depression.”
Interestingly, the study also found that different age groups benefit from different types of relationships. For example, those in the 50-69 age group were found to reduce the risk of depression with frequent face-to-face contact with friends. Those aged 70+ however benefited the most from contact with children and family members.
The findings of the study are likely to be linked with another study carried out in the UK earlier this year which found that upbeat moods among friends can be contagious. It was found that having mentally stable and happy friends can help to improve the mood of those who are depressed which may be one of the many reasons why people are far less likely to suffer the symptoms with increased face-to-face contact.
If you think that you or someone you know could be suffering with depression, please feel free to visit our Signs and Symptoms page which has more information about the condition and how it can be treated.