Family members can reduce social isolation, shown in clinical studies to be a major cause of depression, functional decline, high blood pressure and poor sleep. When we asked esteemed medical researcher Professor Teo about the Konnekt Videophone, he explained:
For older adults the probability of developing symptoms of depression steadily increases as the frequency of in-person social contact decreases. Our research showed that such an effect did not exist for phone, written, or email contact. What does this mean? Social isolation is bad for your mental health, and regular face-to-face social interactions are likely a great way to help prevent depression.— Prof Alan Teo, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Oregon Health & Science University
The Konnekt Videophone also lets carers check for signs of stress or poor health:
Visual signs of wellness
- Eyes wide open? Getting enough sleep
- Animated expression, nodding? Brain health
- Flushed red cheeks? Overheating is dangerous
- Facial hydration? Dehydration rapidly causes problems
- Shaky hands? Parkinson’s check-up
- Trembling lips? Paranoia, anxiety
- Smiling mouth? Seems happy, not depressed
- Smiling eyes? REALLY HAPPY! — More for carers here
Indicators of healthy habits
- Hair brushed? Self-care and self-esteem
- Hair bouncy, not oily? Showering regularly
- Hair messy? Just got up? Regular sleep is vital
- Glasses on? Not misplaced or forgotten
- Clean face? Healthy washing hygiene
- Make up / groomed? Self-esteem relates to mental health
- Fresh clothes? Good hygiene, healthy temperature
- Fingernails cut and clean? Healthy habits
Studies show that frequent FACE-TO-FACE video conversation, with family and friends, can improve mental and physical health:
Those without FACE-TO-FACE contact with FAMILY or FRIENDS at least 3 TIMES PER WEEK have DOUBLE the risk of DEPRESSION
A recent OHSU study by Dr. Alan Teo of 11,000 seniors shows that social contact can HALVE the incidence of depression over 2 years:
- Face-to-face is key. Phone or written contact doesn’t reduce depression.
- Family & friends contact is vital. Socializing with staff or others has no impact.
- 3 times per week is required. Weekly contact shows no measurable benefit.
- Another study quoted shows that derived gains endure for at least 10 years.
Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Oct 2015.
Face-to-face calls can improve brain power
An OHSU study of elderly (average age 80.5) shows that video conversation can improve cognitive function of those with and without dementia:
- Face-to-face is key. The control group, who were only telephoned, did not experience the measured benefit.
- A user-friendly interface was used for just 30 minutes a day of face-to-face conversation over the Internet.
- Enthusiasm: Adherence was high with no dropouts and 89% of daily video conversations completed.
- Results measured improvements to psychomotor speed (movement and coordination), and semantic and phonemic fluency (listening and talking).
- Authors suggested video conversation could offer cost-effective home-based prevention.
- A current 2017-2022 NIH-funded study is quantifying the slowing of cognitive decline and delay of dementia onset.
Source: Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, Jun 2015.
Aged Care and Video communications
Nearly half of elderly nursing home patients are depressed
Dr D. Meyer study “Social isolation and telecommunication” of nursing homes concludes:
- Half of residents are not satisfied with communication with family members.
- 41-46% of residents are mildly or severely depressed.
- 82% are interested in video communication.
Source: Gerontechnology, 2011 Vol 10.
Social relationships encourage healthy habits
A study “Quality in Ageing and Older Adults” shows that social relationships:
- encourage adequate sleep, diet, exercise and medication compliance,
- discourage smoking, excessive eating and alcohol abuse.
- As a health risk, social isolation is worse than cigarette smoking and physical inactivity.
- The digital revolution has left many older people behind.
Sources: “Social Isolation Kills, but how and why?” Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol 63; and an analysis of 148 studies published in PLoS Medicine, Jul 2010.
Loneliness and Dementia
Feelings of loneliness predict dementia onset
The 3-year Amsterdam Study of 2,173 elderly shows that:
- Feeling lonely is a predictor for dementia.
- Interventions are required to reduce the risk of dementia.
Source: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 2014.
Loneliness can lead to sleep fragmentation
- Loneliness is a predictor for poor sleep.
- Higher loneliness is associated with significantly more fragmented sleep.
- Loneliness impairs daytime functioning.
Sources: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2011; Health Psychology, Mar 2010
Loneliness can lead to high blood pressure
- Loneliness predicts increased systolic blood pressure.
- Blood pressure is 30 points higher.
- The health effect of loneliness accumulates over time.
- The effect is independent of social support.
Sources: Psychology and Aging, Mar 2010; Science Daily, Mar 2006
Loneliness increases functional decline
A University of California UCSF study of Health and Retirement shows that:
- Loneliness decreases by 59% the ability to perform daily activities such as upper extremity tasks, climbing stairs and even walking.
- In the group studied, the rate of death was 45% higher.
Source: JAMA Archives of Internal Medicine, Jun 2012
Social isolation is significantly associated with greater mortality
An English Longitudinal Study of Ageing shows that:
- Social relationships are critical to health.
- It’s a particular problem at older ages.
- Increased risks include infectious illness and cognitive deterioration.
Source: Proc National Academy of Sciences 2013.
Health benefits of sharing a smile
Happiness is associated with health in older adults
Studies suggest grinning and laughter are the best medicine:
- Optimism protects older adults against stroke (Stroke AHA Journal, 2011).
- Smile intensity predicts longevity (Psychological Science, Apr 2010).
- Activating smile muscles generates positive emotions (Psychological Science, Sep 1993).