Face-to-face interactions help prevent depression in adults aged 50 or more years, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In the study, the probability of experiencing symptoms of depression steadily increased as the frequency of in-person contact decreased. Those without in-person social contact with children, other family members or friends at least every few months had a significantly higher probability of clinically significant depressive symptoms two years later (11.5%) compared with those having in-person contact once or twice a month (8.1%) or once or twice a week (7.3%).

“This study shows that meeting up and connecting with people face-to-face is good medicine for depression prevention,” says lead author Alan Teo, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University.

Researchers did not see the same association with phone, written and email contact. Teo says he hopes to study how other ways of connecting, such as social media, affect mental health.