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What are the psychological impacts of self isolation?

 

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus known as COVID-19 has caused the entire world to go into quarantine. This self-isolation may just take a negative toll on all of our mental health and here is why.

I believe that if people are not educated on the topic of mental health especially when they are at home and trapped with their own thoughts, their mental health will drop significantly. It is important to get out and around and be active so that your mind is not constantly focusing on the negativity that quarantine is offering right now. The psychological impacts of self isolation are not good but unfortunately self isolation is mandatory in order to preserve physical health. Education is the only thing I can ask of you. You need to know the problem in order to fix it!

The Research:

“Humans are social creatures,” says Emma Grey Ellis from WIRED.  Regardless if you are an introvert or extrovert this self-isolation could really impact your mental and physiological health. “People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” says John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston.  Anxiety and Depression are also likely to kick in when you are trapped in a house without a release date. Alexander Chouker, who is a physician-researcher at the University of Munch studies immunology. He studied isolation in astronauts specifically to see how confinement would affect them. He noticed changes in sleep, metabolic function, and neurocognitive systems. While there could be some negative effects of social isolation it is agreed that “those who study the negative consequences of social isolation still think practicing social distancing is a good idea.”

“Humans are social creatures”

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who is a professor of psychology and neuroscience explained that a lack of social connection increases health risks such as smoking and drinking, which are used to mellow out the pain created by loneliness. In addition to this, the study found that in certain cases, social isolation is more harmful to mental and physical health than obesity. Furthermore, it was determined that loneliness and isolation can cause premature mortality. Studies also found more health consequences associated with loneliness which include cognitive decline, impaired immunity, poor cardiovascular function and more physical and emotional effects. The effects of loneliness can be compared with the effects of lack of exercise, and obesity.

Isolation is affecting many different age groups on many different levels. Older generations are facing more physiological distress whereas younger generations are more mentally distressed. “Dr Jessie Chua, senior clinical psychologist at Resilienz Clinic, told The New Paper her clinic has seen a rise in the number of students with stress and anxiety concerns. She said: “Many, especially those taking major examinations, are facing extreme stress and anxiety, particularly due to the uncertainty they are constantly facing.”” Students are starting to lose motivation and hope for the rest of the year and are starting to give up. Due to homebase learning students are forced to sit at a desk for hours at a time without social interaction or exercise. This lack of exercise and human interaction could be fatal depending on the person. Some people who are more extroverted are going to have a tough time in quarantine because they thrive off of the company of others, whereas introverted people are more likely to remain more “normal” and stable.

 

I decided to get a more personal perspective on how people are doing during this crisis so I sent out a survey to some friends and family members. When I asked if anyone had felt noticeably more sad in the last couple weeks, 80% said yes. This is due to the lack of human connection. Friendship is very important, the oxytocin that is released when you laugh or talk with your friends is crucial to maintaining good mental health. My next question to them was “how many hours do you spend on your phone now that you are not seeing your friends?” the average answer was 10 hours. People are starting to rely on technology for entertainment and relationships which is not a healthy habit to get into because this could potentially become the norm to teenagers around the world which will have a terrible impact on social interaction in the future. Another question I asked was “how much sleep have you been getting every day?” Most people said between 10-13 hours, however in a provided text box, they said they had been taking a significant amount of naps throughout the day so their nightly sleep was around 4-6 hours. Being in a quarantine with very little to do has made some people become very lethargic and unmotivated. The last question I asked was “how much time have you spent worrying about the virus, or school, or X” A lot of people said that they worry that “the virus will not calm down and this will be a more permanent situation than I once thought.” Adults that took this survey mentioned that they were worried that “Someone in my family will get ill” or  “I would lose my job due to this pandemic and not be able to support my family”

What you can do:

Quarantine has been very hard for a lot of people however, it is absolutely necessary at this time to help stop the spread of the virus so here are some things you can do to make this a better experience for you.

Working out: working out is proven to release endorphins which will enhance your mood and increase positivity! It is also good to keep in shape, working out is effective even if it is just a short one in the living room.
Reading and challenging the mind: Doing sudokus and puzzles will challenge the mind and keep you entertained for hours. When you finally finish the puzzle or book you are working on, your brain will increase in gray matter which is a major component of the central nervous system. Gray matter helps with sensory perception, decision making, memory, emotions, and much more.
Take up a new hobby: Try learning to paint, or learn a new instrument. This will help take up a good portion of your time and will make your quarantine more enjoyable! Painting and playing music is also therapeutic, you could release a lot of anxiety and emotion into the art you create which will have positive effects on your mental health.
Build relationships: While we are all in quarantine, most likely with our family, try getting to know everyone better. Building relationships will give you more company and love which is exactly what we need at this time.

Sources:

Andelane, Lana. “Newshub.” Newshub, 2020, www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2020/03/coronavirus-how-new-zealand-s-self-isolation-rules-compare-to-other-countries.html.

Cheow, Sue-Ann. “Covid-19 Could Take Toll on People’s Mental Health, Say Experts.” The Straits Times, 1 Apr. 2020, www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/covid-19-could-take-toll-on-peoples-mental-health-say-experts.

Ellis, Emma Grey. “What Coronavirus Isolation Could Do to Your Mind (and Body).” Wired, Conde Nast, 2020, www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-covid-19-isolation-psychology/.

Miller, Anna Medaris. “What Happens to Your Body and Brain When You’re Quarantined, and How to Cope.” Business Insider Singapore, 21 Mar. 2020, www.businessinsider.sg/how-a-coronavirus-quarantine-affects-your-body-and-brain-2020-3?r=US&IR=T.

Novotney, Amy. “The Risk of Social Isolation.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, 2019, www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation.

Singer, Clifford. “Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness.” Aging Life Care Association, 2018, www.aginglifecarejournal.org/health-effects-of-social-isolation-and-loneliness/.

UC San Diego Health, director. 5 Tips to Protect Your Mental Health During Coronavirus Crisis | UC San Diego Health. YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I943-gP904.

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COMMENTS: 9
  1. April 26, 2020 by Alek

    Hi Julia!
    I love your project because of how relevant it is for everyone right now. All the resources you provided are so valuable- this could really help someone. Thank you so much for your work on this!

    • April 27, 2020 by julia

      Thank you Alek! I hope that it does end up helping people!

  2. April 26, 2020 by Clark

    Hi Julia,

    Great job on your presentation. I found it very interesting that studies show that isolation can be more harmful to our health than obesity and that 80% felt more sad during these times. Good job again!

    • April 27, 2020 by julia

      Hi Clark! I found that study interesting too but once I thought about it started to make sense! humans are social beings, they thrive off of contact! thank you for taking the time to read my page!

  3. April 27, 2020 by Julia

    I really appreciate that! Thank you!

  4. April 27, 2020 by Cam

    Hi Julia! I really like your project, especially as it is so helpful to learn more about a situation we are currently enduring! One thing I found super interesting was the fact that even those who study the negative effects of isolation still promote the idea of social distancing. Not only is this a vital fact to know, its something that I think if it were more common knowledge would help to minimize the number of groups gathering to protest the governmental restrictions when in reality all they are doing is prolonging them further. I think you do a great job in your project bringing light to how this affects not only mental but physical health as well, which aside from people not moving as much, I was not aware it had such an impact upon.

  5. April 27, 2020 by Cam

    One question I have that I forgot to include in my last comment was how do you think this change in people’s mental and physical status’ will affect their relationships post quarantine?

  6. April 27, 2020 by Alessandra

    Hi! Your project is so cool! You mentioned that it can increase habits of smoking and drinking by staying isolated for too long, and I recently saw something that proves that. I went driving with my family the other day, and I saw that the local alcohol store had people lined up around the block.

  7. April 27, 2020 by Chauncey Hill

    I really like this topic because it is so relevant to what is going on to society today. And, I think that this is something a lot of people struggle with when suffering from mental health issue. Asking for help is always the hardest part, and I think that when people believe they can do it on their own it leads to much deeper problems with their mental health. Nice job!

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