Monday, March 16, 2020
We are all too aware of the pandemic and now we need to recognize that the impact can be beyond whether someone tests positive for the virus. VOX ran this timely article, Coronavirus will also cause a loneliness epidemic: "[t]he rapid implementation of social distancing is necessary to flatten the coronavirus curve and prevent the current pandemic from worsening. But just as the coronavirus fallout threatens to cause an economic recession, it’s also going to cause what we might call a “social recession”: a collapse in social contact that is particularly hard on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness — older adults and people with disabilities or preexisting health conditions." Referring to the impact as "social damage." the article discusses the potential for harm to certain vulnerable groups (think elders) as we practice this isolation from one another.
“Social isolation has been associated with a significantly increased risk of premature mortality from all causes,” the report found, including a “50 percent increased risk of developing dementia,” a “29 percent increased risk of incident coronary heart disease,” a “25 percent increased risk for cancer mortality,” a “59 percent increased risk of functional decline,” and a “32 percent increased risk of stroke.” The mental health risks are also profound. The researchers reviewed dozens of studies and found a consistent relationship between social isolation and depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
Expect a decline in one's social health, the article warns. It offers some suggestions, such as where possible, going for a walk outside or having a picnic rather than dinner in a crowded restaurant, increase virtual communications, in particular phone calls or even better, video chats. Of course, it's possible, the article notes, that those most vulnerable may not have access to or the ability to video chats.
So while you're self-quarantined, use the time to make calls to those who you would otherwise visit. Consider how else you might reach out to those elders, to help mitigate the social recession.