Sunday, 1 January 2012

valentines flowers men - In high-tech age, letters still matter

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Instant communication may be all the rage, but old-fashioned letter-writing may have a more beneficial lasting effect on recipients.

In a study involving nearly 200 married soldiers serving in war zones, most in Iraq, researchers found that letters from home — just a few words from the heart, scribbled onto paper or typed into an e-mail — served as an inoculation against post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Those positive, permanent forms of communication may have mental health benefits,” said University of Denver researcher Benjamin Loew, who co-authored the study, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

More “instant” forms of communication, such as telephone calls or video chats, did not have the same positive effect on soldiers’ mental well-being as the receipt of written communication or even care packages, the study found.

One theory why this is the case, according to the researchers, is that people tend to think through what they write in a letter and are less likely to be argumentative and more free to share affection and other positive feelings.

Letters also serve as mementos that soldiers can carry with them as a reminder of home.

“A soldier could repeatedly pull out a letter or an e-mail and feel support,” Loew said. “A phone call can be recalled but can’t be re-experienced. A letter can be read over and over again.”

The research team found that happily married soldiers who received frequent communication that the team described as delayed -- letters, emails, care packages — had fewer PTSD symptoms than those who’d received more instant communications, such as phone calls, video chats and instant messages.

But they also detected one scenario in which letters from home proved detrimental.

Soldiers in unhappy marriages who communicated often by delayed means tended to have more PTSD symptoms, the study found.

“We don’t know if the communications are more negative, or if it reflects a soldier doing a lot of writing home and not getting anything in return,” Loew said.
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