To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, public health officials are advising citizens to take part in the practice of social distancing. As a result of the outbreak, religious meetings, sports events, and mass gatherings have been canceled as precautionary measures.

The discipline of social distancing is the avoidance of group gatherings and close contact between people. It is recommended that individuals remain at least six feet from one another at all times to reduce the likelihood of spreading COVID-19. This will be a challenge for most due to it requiring people to not meet and physically touch one another.

According to Dr. David Dameron, a psychologist at Mynd Matters Counseling, when an individual is social distancing themselves, there may be changes that occur in sleeping patterns, appetite, and mood (Nawrotzky, 2020). Some people also experience getting irritated more easily or a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.

The long-term effects of social isolation can lead to health issues such as heart disease, depression, dementia, and possibly even death (Miller, 2020). Based on research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University, in more extreme cases of social isolation, it can heighten the chances of mortality by 29% (Miller, 2020).

Although anybody could be impacted by social isolation and loneliness, elders are more vulnerable because of additional factors such as severe illness, the loss of a loved one, and hearing impairment, which could make communicating more difficult. A person that has had previous issues with anxiety, drug abuse, depression, loneliness, or other health-related issues will also be more prone to be affected in the long run.

Since isolation could create a lonely feeling, it is important to be aware of these signs. To slow down the rate of the pandemic from traveling, practices such as social distancing and self-quarantine are necessary. By taking part in protective measures, it makes a huge difference in your health as well as others.

References:
Nawrotzky, K. (2020, March 17). The Mental Health Effects of Social Distancing. Retrieved from https://www.wric.com/health/coronavirus/the-mental-health-effects-of-social-distancing
Miller, G. (2020, March 16). Social Distancing Prevents Infections, But It Can Have Unintended Consequences. Retrieved from https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/we-are-social-species-how-will-social-distancing-affect-us
Contributed by:  Dianne Lee