It’s easy nowadays to pick up the phone to connect with friends and family, but spending time being physically present with a loved one is more beneficial, found a study published Monday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Using data from 11,000 adults aged 50 and older between 2004 and 2010— a University of Michigan longitudinal study called the Health and Retirement survey— researchers sent surveys every two years to follow participant progress on a variety of health and social factors, TIME.com reported.
Researchers found that only 6.5 percent of those who met with friends or family at least three times a week reported depressive symptoms; the rate was twice as high for those who interacted with loved ones every few months or less.
According to study authors, the connection isn’t just a correlation.
“We adjusted for all sorts of things that could influence the findings, like having depressive tendencies from before,” lead author Alan Teo, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, told TIME.com. “And this is a longitudinal study that looks at people over time, not just at a single moment. What we found is that this is something that isn’t random—it’s more likely to be causal.”
In the study group, those who were ages 50 to 69 had the most benefit when their friends came to their homes, while those over 70 had better outcomes with family interactions.
While the study focused on older adults, Teo believes the larger population benefits from their findings, adding that making a phone call is the first time but scheduling face time— not FaceTime— is “preventative medicine, like getting a regular dose of vitamins.”