Covid-19

Can Social Distancing Have Unintended Consquences?

As a direct response to the coronavirus outbreak that’s been plaguing the world for the last few months now, public health officials from all over the world are asking people to practice social distancing, which can generally be summed up as: Don’t touch anyone else and stay away from each other.

This is because not being in close contact with each other can help slow down the pandemic since it basically stops people from either contracting the virus themselves or spreading it to other unsuspecting people, who can then transfer it to the elderly and others that have weaker immune systems. And on paper, it sounds incredibly effective. In practice, however, it can still be a bit difficult.

How so?

“The coronavirus spreading around the world is calling on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends, getting together in groups, or touching each other,” Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and physician at Yale University, said.

Furthermore, Christakis also believes that this strategy also tests just how much we can cooperate as people, given that it can be challenging for a lot of us.

“Pandemics are an especially demanding test … because we are not just trying to protect people we know, but also people we do not know or even, possibly, care about,” he added.

The problem, however, is that some scientists and experts believe this can put a certain type of strain on us, what with isolation and loneliness being more common with today’s youth, and given that social contact can help negate the negative effects of stress.

“Pandemics are an especially demanding test … because we are not just trying to protect people we know, but also people we do not know or even, possibly, care about,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a research psychologist at Brigham Young University, said.

Holt-Lunstad also thinks social distancing can exacerbate the habit of connecting less.

Moving forward, the expert believes more research is needed and, at the very least, social media can still help us connect more for our mental health, even if we’re all far apart physically for the time being.

Man standing alone German researchers identify a gene linked to social anxiety disorder, and explore the effects of serotonin. Photo courtesy of Pexels, Public Domain

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