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Don’t Call Your Mom—Video Chat Instead

Video chats with family can help reduce the risk of depression in older adults.

secondfromthesun0/Pixabay, used with permission
Video chats help families stay in touch.
Source: secondfromthesun0/Pixabay, used with permission

Sure, you send texts to your parents, respond to their emails, and maybe even “friend” them on Facebook or Snapchat so they can view your life in pictures, but how often do you communicate face-to-face with them via Skype or FaceTime? While all types of social interaction can help older people stay connected to family and friends, a new study from researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and University of California Davis found that participating in video chats cuts the probability of developing depressive symptoms in half, compared to those who may use other forms of communication technology but don’t use this type.

The researchers compared initial data collected through questionnaires in 2012 with 2-year follow-up data collected in 2014 from more than 1,400 participants in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) performed by The University of Michigan and sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. The follow-up survey included questions about depressive symptoms. They found that, more than other communication technologies such as email, social networks, and instant messaging, video chats have the potential to prevent or delay symptoms of depression among older people in their later years. In fact, they found no link between any of those other technologies and reduced risk of depression; instead they found that older men and women who only use those technologies had the same rate of depression as older adults who don’t use any communication technology at all.

Statistics show that more and more older people use the internet, and even nursing homes and other residences for the elderly are starting to provide internet access. Previous studies found that video chats with family in these circumstances last longer than landline phone calls and, although not scientifically proven, suggest that face-to-face chats may help reduce symptoms of agitation such as pacing, resistance and verbal outbursts, in residents with dementia.

What’s even better than a video chat? Regular, real life face-to-face interaction, of course. But in a world where that’s just not possible for so many people, video chatting appears to help beat elderly blues better than any other available technology.


Teo AR, Markwardt S, Hinton L. Using Skype to Beat the Blues: Longitudinal Data from a National Representative Sample. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Published online 29 Oct 2018.…

Van der Ploeg ES, Epingstall B, O’Connor DW. Internet Video Chat (Skype) Family Conversations as a treatment of Agitation in Nursing Home Residents with Dementia. International Psychogeriatrics. April 2016; 28(4):697-698.…

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