Can prolonged social isolation and loneliness increase blood pressure and the production of stress hormones?
A headline like “Public Health Crisis of Social Isolation and Loneliness” would likely have you thinking that this is an article about the global coronavirus pandemic. Actually, that is not entirely true. Americans, as well as others around the world, were already in the midst of a social isolation and loneliness crisis, well before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19.
That said, COVID has certainly made it worse.
Barbra Streisand won an Academy Award in 1964 for her very first movie, Funny Girl, and even if for some reason you have never watched it, odds are that you are familiar with the song “People”, which was introduced in the film. It seems there may have been something prophetic in those lyrics because we are becoming increasingly aware that people do need people.
There will undoubtedly be a wave of studies done in an attempt to document the toll taken by the year (or years) of COVID. In just the first month, there was a preliminary survey that found that people were already feeling a 20 to 30 percent increase in loneliness and that their emotional distress levels had tripled. Considering the pre-existing levels, no one doubts that future studies will not find that reversing anytime soon.
Humans are social beings, and our increase in distress levels due to being forced to remain socially distanced is quite normal. Just like we are programmed to find food when we are hungry and water when thirsty, we have a biological need for proximity to others, particularly those with whom we feel safe. Lacking that physical connection can increase levels of stress hormones, raise blood pressure, and initiate inflammatory responses throughout the body.
Even though these are normal physiological responses, just like the “flight or fight” response, they were meant to be temporary. Health professionals are concerned about the consequences of experiencing them on a long-term basis.
How To Deal With Loneliness During Covid-19
How do I Cope with Social Isolation and Loneliness during the pandemic?
There is a certain amount of irony in the notion that we have been forced to sacrifice most of what makes life worth living. This is in order to up our chances at being able to keep on living (refers to work, etc). To their credit, many people have made tremendous efforts at staying busy and staying in touch. An incredible amount of bread has been baked and puzzles put together. Millions of people who had previously never heard of Zoom have spent hours and hours video connecting with family and friends.
Unfortunately, there has also been an increase in far less healthy behavior, including overeating, substance abuse and domestic violence. It has been reported that just before social distancing went into effect, there were more than two million guns purchased in the U.S., which immediately increased concerns about potential suicides.
Allowing isolation to feel like the new normal is not a good thing. Even though Zoom falls far short of being able to connect in person, efforts to at least talk with others do make a difference. This is especially true when we are struggling with feelings of loneliness.
Most healthcare professionals are available virtually, if not currently staffing their offices. Whether you are having issues with a broken bone or a lot of feelings that you just don’t know what to do with, there is help available. Asking for it may well be your best coping mechanism for what are truly extraordinarily difficult times.
The Southern California Center for Anti-Aging focuses on the practice of advanced, preventive and regenerative medicine. We strongly believe correcting imbalances and deficiencies in nutrition, along with improving fitness and balancing and restoring hormones with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, can help with creating the foundation for a healthier and happier life. To learn more about our holistic approach or if you have questions about any of our services, take advantage of our Free Consultation. Still need further assistance on how to deal with loneliness especially during Covid-19? Click here to use our convenient online form and book a session with us today.