Social Isolation kills. I hope that sentence grabs your attention because it is true. The Covid-19 pandemic is causing a serious health risk that is separate from being infected with the virus. The lack of contact with relatives, friends and the community is as dangerous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! It is associated with increased rates of depression, dementia, suicide and hypertension.
Other effects of social isolation are anxiety and panic disorder. Living a solitary life is a known health risk for cardiovascular disease and even stroke was 32% higher in individuals with poor social relationships.
Connection to others is part of our DNA and is an essential part of being human. And it's not just older people who are experiencing the loneliness and health risks of being isolated. People who usually work and interact with others are now working from home. Zoom is not the same as being in close contact and being able to touch, see facial expressions, share food, coffee and jokes. Young people are missing critical growth experiences with dating, being with friends, exercising in groups and being in nature. The lack of direct social interaction has a negative health effect for people of all ages.
A new study shows that American adults, particularly women, are drinking more with the Covid-19 pandemic. Alcohol consumption has increased by 14% compared with a year ago. (October, 2020). And women's drinking rose by an astonishing 41% over baseline.
In the psychiatric world, when patients socially isolate, it is considered a warning sign for mental illness and depression. The Covid pandemic has forced an unnatural state on millions of people.
So what can we do? First, just being aware that this is very abnormal and unhealthy is a start. We all need to make a conscious effort to take care of ourselves first and then reach out to another human being. It's far too easy to get glued to a computer inside the house. It is safe to be with others in outdoor settings, wearing masks and socializing, exercising, eating, dancing and just hanging out. Children should be in school.
Think about a neighbor, relative, friend who may be shut in. Call them regularly. Take homemade food to them. Sit with them outside and eat a meal. All of this will be easier when more people are vaccinated. The virus is diminishing now across America. If this trend continues (fingers crossed) and more people are vaccinated, we can have more contact and touch with each other. Until then, make sure you are seeing friends and family in safe settings. Avoid isolation.