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UNLV STUDY: Old-school telephone talk proves best at combating pandemic stress, loneliness

Posted at 9:48 PM, Mar 22, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The pandemic has taken a toll on mental health and a new study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas shows some surprising results.

Natalie Pennington, a communications studies professor, and social media expert says the nationwide research effort surveyed 2,000 Americans across different ages, racial, ethnic, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The COVID-19 public health crisis forced many people to avoid gatherings with loved ones or friends in-person.

Virtual happy hours and hangouts often times replaced the face to face, in-person interactions.

"Theory would say that video chat would be the best, the ability to see people have all those context and clues, visual cues, voice cues, all of that should be really good for us but the fact that it wasn't was definitely surprising," explained Pennington.

The respondents to the survey reported the old-school telephone and talking with each other over that platform, which has been widely available for more than 120 years, provided the best personal connection.

Pennington says the newer medium, video chat, helped amplify the fact that we could not see our loved ones and friends in person, face-to-face.

"I am seeing the person, but I'm not really seeing this person," said Pennington.

"You are reminded that it's a pandemic, you're reminded that you can't hang out and that just makes it worse for everyone," explained Pennington.

The research also showed age, relationship status and a person's living situation were three big factors that shifted how people were impacted by technology.

"It's young adults that are experiencing the most loneliness," explained Pennington.

"People that are 18 to 29, who probably were the most social pre-pandemic, going out on the weekends, are still building social networks, still searching for a significant other," added Pennington.

Those in a romantic relationship appeared to weather the pandemic's lack of socializing the best but participants reported feelings of higher stress if their partner posted more on social media, which could lead to hurt feelings and even jealousy.

The entire search and more information can be found here from UNLV.