We’ve never been further apart than we have these last few years that seem to have lasted too long now, and feeling lonely, isolated, away and distant has become an incontrovertible fact most of us are coming to terms with.
Research focused on the impact of COVID-19, the impact of being physically apart, mandates and regulations on social interaction, self isolation to avoid the spread of the virus and the loneliness of being in imposed lockdowns have indeed found loneliness to be profoundly damaging for mental and physical health. Remember that social isolation and loneliness are not the same, but are closely related. Doctors agree that prevailing stay at home orders, practicing social distancing, and limiting social interactions do lead people to feel the full effects of isolation.
Studies showed that the longer a person was in isolation and the smaller the space in which they were isolating was directly proportional to the adverse effects on their mental health with anxiety and depression being major factors. It was also found that in the absence of physical “offline” contact, online contact with friends and family did provide some respite.
However, it is also important why you are doing the needful to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we’re in this together, and while isolation may be mandatory: loneliness is not.
These imposed lockdowns have offered us an opportunity to undertake a journey of self discovery and an opportunity to further understand the relationship between isolation, lockdowns and loneliness. We will examine the prevalence and experience of loneliness during a period of enforced social isolation, which will help us clarify the link between social isolation and loneliness.
Being lonely or feeling alone has lead people to break social distancing rules, and these outbreaks are just ways for people to cope
with unbearable stress, but flouting social distancing rules will only further the spread of the virus.
Is everyone also facing a loneliness epidemic?
It may be going too far to say that restricted movement, lockdowns, self isolation for a week or so and social distancing as a result of COVID-19 has indeed kicked off a loneliness epidemic as well, a study conducted in Spain during the pandemic found that loneliness lead to higher emotional distress among people, and women seemed to be more distressed, along with those who were unable to access or contact their relatives.
There are a quite a few ongoing studies that will help us better appreciate and understand the impact of social distancing on loneliness.
Some initial reports from one such study found that the loneliest of all were young adults aged among 18-29-years, people who lived alone as it was, those with lower household income, employees who lost their work and those who had pre-existing mental health conditions
Younger people, especially, have felt the crippling effects of social distancing and lockdowns bang in the middle of their prime years in life and before the most exciting new chapters they never experienced. 16–24-year-olds reported the highest rates as this age group either had to stop attending school or college, away from their peers.
How to deal with loneliness in lockdown
While some people have dealt well with the effects of social distancing by way of adapting their work and life balance to it, starting new ventures from home, while some simply learnt new ways to interact reconnecting with friends and family online, not everyone can say the same.
Some people may not be able to adapt and instead, may find themselves more affected by lockdown than others. Individuals whose living situations were already isolated owing to physical or mental health conditions, or those who had no access to the internet or know how of the digital platforms available.
While online communication is great to be social during the COVID-19 pandemic,, we still need to connect using more effective and accessible methods like a phone call, or simply smiling or being kind to people you’ll end up seeing when out and about, improve your connection with people first; and you’ll see they too were feeling lonely or isolated during these hard times.
It is important to know if you’re feeling alone or loneliness at large, as it is associated with increased risk of mortality on a scale similar to smoking and alcohol. The reason is not well understood, however the negative impact of loneliness also affect mental health. Loneliness causes social anxiety and depression; feeling constant loneliness in adolescence can also translate to more suicidal tendencies later on and loneliness is associated with alcohol and substance abuse
Difference between Isolation and lockdown
Isolation is advised for those who have been tested positive for Corona virus Covid-19. The only contact in this case would be family members in protective gear or medical personnel in the same.
Isolation includes living separately, not contacting anyone physically, getting everything delivered, and using separate utensils from others.
Social distancing needs to be done by everyone in the world because of the pandemic, but self-isolation is a must for anyone who tests positive for covid-19 or those who came in contact with a positive individual.
The lockdowns curtail the movement of people to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This is forced on people by government enforcement to slow down transmission.
A lockdown can include stay at home orders, restricted movement, alternate days for local essential services, stopping trains, flights and public transport, closing down restaurants and movie theatres, and keeping a watch on outbreaks in containment zones.