What are the consequences of social isolation?
This is a question I am starting to ask as I know how important social connections are to our health, and I believe we are facing physical and psychological consequences of this mass social distancing experiment.
Hundreds of millions of adults and children are now either in quarantine in their homes, or engaged in “essential” travel in the public sphere, while maintaining an unnatural distance from one another, because they have been told this is the best way to protect their individual and the public’s health from a deadly virus.
But what are the consequences of the social isolation caused by this mass social distancing experiment?
At least 13 studies demonstrate that social isolation increases mortality while having fewer social ties may increase your susceptibility to viruses such as the common cold.
It’s clear that infectious disease dynamics are complex and only beginning to be understood, and seemingly straightforward “solutions” like social distancing do not have straightforward effects. In some cases, it may even worsen, not improve, epidemic outcomes.
in the first study referenced below, researchers found that social isolation predicted mortality for both genders, and social isolation was as strong a factor in their mortality risk as smoking, and even higher than having high blood pressure.
Matthew Pantell, MD, Social Isolation: A Predictor of Mortality Comparable to Traditional Clinical Risk Factors 2013 Am J Public Health November.
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T, Layton B. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010;7(7):e1000316.
Giles L, Glonek G, Luszcz M, Andres G. Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005;59(7):574-579.