Under the Hood

Social Isolation During COVID-19 Pandemic Can Make Your Life Shorter, Study Finds

A new study found that spending more time in isolation could put people at risk of dying earlier. Researchers found a link between reduced interactions and changes in psychological well-being and physical health that could lead to shorter lifespan.

The new study, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic that forced millions of people across the world to spend time at home and avoid gatherings. It adds to the growing list of the disease’s indirect impacts on people. 

Researchers marked social isolation as a significant predictor of the risk of death. Loneliness can negatively affect the immune system and reduce its functions, Futurity reported Tuesday.

The study shows that people in isolation are likely to have poor immune defense, making them less resistant to diseases and infections. Having strong interpersonal relationships play an important role in survival. 

Social isolation may also affect reasoning and memory performances, hormone homeostasis, brain grey/white-matter, connectivity and function. People who frequently feel loneliness are also at higher risk of having mental health problems. 

“We are social creatures. Social interplay and cooperation have fueled the rapid ascent of human culture and civilization,” Danilo Bzdok, study co-author and an associate professor in the biomedical engineering department at McGill University and Canada CIFAR Artificial Intelligence Chair, said. “Yet, social species struggle when forced to live in isolation. From babies to the elderly, psychosocial embedding in interpersonal relationships is critical for survival.”

The researchers also found that people who maintain social interactions have lower chances of catching diseases linked to loneliness. Spending more time with groups, such as sports clubs, church and hobby groups, may help reduce the risk of depression by nearly 25 percent.

“It is now more urgent than ever to narrow the knowledge gap of how social isolation impacts the human brain as well as mental and physical well-being,” Bzdok said. 

Prolonged periods of social isolation due to COVID-19 could put many people at risk of short lifespan. Public and private organizations should increase efforts to address the issue and help reduce loneliness, especially amid the pandemic that also significantly increases levels of stress and anxiety. 

COVID-19 Pandemic U.K. researchers coined the term "COVID-19 pandemic paradox" to explain the decline in death rates from December 2019 to March 2020, compared to the last five years. Pixabay

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