Want To Improve People’s Lives? Call Them, Says Science

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For some people, speaking on the phone is an infrequent, stress-inducing event. Others relish the chance to hear a voice on the other end of a receiver and much prefer that mode of communication to texting. If you’re in the former camp, though, it might be time to reconsider your aversion to gabbing by phone: several studies have found that there are health benefits to phone calls, largely related to social connection.

Research connects social support as a valuable tool for living a healthy life that can help reduce stress and loneliness. Phone calls are just one form of social support, but there's evidence to believe it to be an effective one. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure in December 2022 found that phone calls from a nurse may improve survival for heart failure patients.

Experts In This Article

What one study author found particularly surprising about the finding, though, is that the sicker patients actually gained the most from the calls. Overall they spent more days out of the hospital and alive. “We expected the sickest, oldest patients and the least sick patients to get no extra benefit from the service, but we found that the sicker you were, the more you got out of this,” says Ilan Kedan, MD, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai and study co-author. “I think it is valuable to consider what it means to reach out to another person over the phone…how valuable and powerful that can be.”

“I think it is valuable to consider what it means to reach out to another person over the phone…how valuable and powerful that can be.” —Ilan Kedan, MD

That's just one example (and a specific and extreme one at that) of the potential health benefits of phone calls. In practice, those feel-good effects of connection lend themselves to virtually all people. Check them out below—and then, the next time you find yourself about to shoot off a text, consider dialing a phone number instead to have a live conversation.

4 health benefits of phone calls to know about

1. Lower rates of loneliness

As mentioned, social support is a tool adept at decreasing loneliness, and phone calls are an effective conduit of that support. Phone calls facilitate non-physical social interaction and contribute to a social support network, which it turns out is vital to living a longer and more healthful life.

Tending to social support networks is a key way to fight and prevent loneliness, which is a risk factor for many ailments. One small study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2021 found that loneliness, depression, anxiety, and general mental improved among a group of 240 homebound, at-risk older adults who received phone calls through Meals on Wheels during a four week program in 2020.

2. Improved mood and less stress

Because they’re a means to stay connected and facilitate conversation, it makes sense that phone calls can contribute to improved mood and reduced stress. A recent study found that just one quality conversation helped improve the mood and lower the stress levels of participants by the end of the day. That conversation could happen on the phone.

3. Clearer communication and less awkwardness

Phone calls foster clear communication, which is beneficial in our relationships. Communicating our needs in all our relationships strengthens them, and speaking on the phone can help with this because hearing the inflections and tone of someone’s voice provides context and nuance that can help their meaning be interpreted. (Texting, on the other hand, often leaves room for such interpretation, making it tougher to ascertain someone's tone and intention.) “It humanizes the other person that you're reaching out to and takes out a lot of the guesswork…there's less interpretation we have to do,” Alexandra Cromer, LPC, a therapist at Thriveworks, says of phone calls.

Science backs this up: A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2021 sought to assess whether different types of communications offered the same level of benefit. Participants were asked to connect with someone over the phone, video, or by text-based communication. Those whose connections included verbal communication, such as phone and video calls, reported stronger social bonds and no increase in awkwardness compared to those who communicated via text.

4. More ways to have sex and build intimacy

According to therapist and sexologist Joy Berkheimer, PhD, LMFT, the voice is an instrument you can use to stoke a partner's fantasies and desires, and a phone call opens up the possibility of using it, even when you're not physically near each other. (There's a reason some dating apps have added voice messaging features, and why audio erotica apps and stories are so popular.) "Our sensuality and eroticism is about our senses, and we like our senses to be piqued in a different way," says Dr. Berkheimer. "To me, someone's voice can transport you."

Hopping on the phone to tell your partner a sexy story or to tell them your fantasies is a great way to incorporate this other avenue of pleasure into your routine.

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