Covid-19 will harm people’s mental health.
Being forced into isolation and confinement creates a number of potentially stressful demands. However, we might be able to learn a thing or two about coping with these demands, from people who choose a life in such settings.
Loneliness has become a “plague,” an “epidemic” or “pandemic” that afflicts young and old alike. Its intersection with another pandemic — COVID-19 — is creating widespread alarm.
A former hostage, a writer with ME/chronic-fatigue-syndrome and an astronaut reflect on life under lockdown.
“The virus doesn’t know tribes, it doesn’t know boundaries, it just doesn’t know….And that, in some ways, is a dramatic reminder of how connected we are.”
Let’s take the lessons of the past year and apply them to the post-pandemic world.
This would not be surprising to those who study social isolation. Loneliness has long been believed to increase people’s vulnerability to such mental disorders as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, insomnia and even dementia.
“Social distancing” is required to prevent infection. But loneliness can make us sick.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, public-health experts were concerned about an epidemic of loneliness in the U.S. The coronavirus has exacerbated that problem, with most face-to-face socializing for people still under lockdown orders indefinitely limited to members of their own households.
Sure, you’re not floating 250 miles above the ground, but you can still use the same tactics astronauts use to keep going.
In its starkest sense, complete social isolation is used regularly by prisons as a severe punishment. But numerous studies show that even in everyday life, loneliness — the painful perception of not having meaningful connections with others — has serious health effects.
In a perfect infectious-disease-fighting model, everybody would stay home and socialize only with their cohabitants. But the realities of human existence are messier.
Living alone without social interaction is implicated in higher rates of cardiovascular disease, worsening dementia and Alzheimer’s and shorter lives
In terms of human interactions, the number of people we know is not the best measure. In order to be socially satisfied, we don’t need all that many people. According to Cacioppo the key is in the quality, not the quantity of those people. We just need several on whom we can depend and who depend on us in return.
A year of school shutdowns and family trauma leads to social isolation, stress and mental-health issues
The findings suggest recovery from the pandemic may take a long time and could affect people’s view of their relationships over time.
Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, John Milton and Lord Byron used such time to add to their formidable body of work in science and literature. It was not called lockdown in their time, but they spent long spells in isolation, when medicine was not as developed as it is now.