A study recently published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that soldiers in Iraq who received letters or e-mails from home were less likely to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than those who received more “instant” forms of communication, such as telephone calls, video chats and instant messages.
The study involved a survey of nearly 200 married Army soldiers who returned from an overseas tour in the past year, which included combat. Each participant was evaluated for PTSD symptoms, their combat exposure, their marital satisfaction and the types and frequency of communication they received while overseas.
The research found that happily married soldiers who received “delayed” communications – such as letters, emails, and care packages – have less PTSD symptomatology than those who received instant communications.
Interestingly, the study did find one circumstance where delayed communications were associated with more PTSD symptoms – when the soldiers were in unhappy marriages.
The researchers hypothesized multiple reasons why the more delayed forms of communications appear to be more beneficial. One theory is that when people take the time to think through an e-mail or letter, they are more likely to express affection and less likely to be argumentative.
Another theory is that the letters and items in their care packages can be carried as mementos. Whereas a telephone call or IM can only be recalled, the letter or token can actually be re-examined during a stressful time.