Researchers find people who meet friends and family at least three times a week far less like to have depression than those who have only 'virtual contact
Among adults aged 50 to 69, frequent face-to-face contact with friends reduced the risk of subsequent depression.
Replacing face-to-face contact with friends and family with emails, text messages and phone calls could double the risk of depression, a major study suggests.
Research on 11,000 adults found that those who meet friends and family at least three times a week are far less likely to suffer from depression.
Individuals who had such contact just once every few months had an 11.5 per cent chance of later suffering from depressive symptoms two years later. By contrast, those who met up with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms, with rates of 6.5 per cent.
The study by the University of Michigan, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
, is the first to examine the impact of different types of social contact on depression. Adults aged 50 and over were tracked for more than two years. While strong links were found between face-to-face contact and depression, regularity of contact with loved-ones by telephone, email or social media was shown to make no difference.
Researchers reported that having more or fewer phone conversations, or written or email contact, had no effect on depression.
Dr Alan Teo, lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, said: "We found that all forms of socialisation aren't equal. Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression