Video Chat Tech Lowers Risk for Depression

The holiday season is upon us and for many older adults, this time of year can be emotionally difficult when family is far away or loved ones have passed.  But new research has found that talking with family and friends through a video chat can make a measurable difference in keeping seniors socially connected and preventing depression.

A recent study out of Oregon Health & Science University found that of all the means of online communication technology available; email, social media, FaceTime, Skype and instant messaging, video chat use reduced the risk for depressive symptoms among older adults most.  Researchers published their findings, based on questionnaires answered by more than 1,400 adults with an average age of 65, in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.   

According to a Star Tech News report, seniors who used video chat technology to keep in touch with family and friends had about half the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms after two years when compared with older adults who used other forms of communication technology.  This is the first study that makes a direct connection between video chat technology and the reduction of symptoms of depression. 

While it’s clear that video calls are not an adequate replacement for regular in-person social interaction, for many house-bound seniors, it could be a beneficial substitute when weather or other circumstances prevent travel to visit family and friends.   Instead of writing an email or using social media to connect with an older person in your life, taking the time to video chat through FaceTime or Skype can provide that face-to-face interaction we all crave.   For seniors who don’t like using tablets, smartphones or computers, there are a number of alternatives on the market to simplify video chatting.  The Echo Show from Amazon uses Alexa to allow friends and relatives to “drop-in” on an older loved one.  The Grand Pad, Facebook’s Portal and the ViewClix Smart Frame are also easy for older adults, who are not very tech savvy, to set up and use at home.

Although depression is not a normal part of aging, seniors are at an increased risk of experiencing depression, especially if they have one or more chronic health condition.  Depression is more than feeling sad, it can affect every aspect of daily life.  Learn more about depression and older adults by following this link to the National Institute on Aging website.