Using video chatting platforms like Skype to connect with friends and family can stave of depression in older adults, a study has found. Researchers compared four different types of online communication technologies — video chat, email, social networks and instant messaging — used by people 60 and older and then gauged their symptoms of depression based on survey responses two years later.
“Video chat came out as the undisputed champion,” said Alan Teo, associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University in the US.
“Older adults who used video chat technology such as Skype had significantly lower risk of depression,” said Teo, lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The researchers identified 1,424 participants from a 2012 survey who completed a set of questions about technology use. These same participants also responded to a follow-up survey two years later that measured, among other things, depressive symptoms.
Those who used email, instant messaging or social media platforms like Facebook had virtually the same rate of depressive symptoms compared with older adults who did not use any communication technologies.
In contrast, researchers found that people who used video chat functions such as Skype and FaceTime had almost half the estimated probability of depressive symptoms, after adjusting for other factors that could confound results, such as pre-existing depression and level of education.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a potential link between use of video chat and prevention of clinically significant symptoms of depression over two years in older adults,” researchers said.