Neglecting the impact of the COVID-19 quarantine on mental health

One thing we hear too little of during the COVID-19 quarantine crisis is the serious mental health consequences of social isolation.

How this is being left out of the public health equation is puzzling and certainly dangerous. Maybe it's a media reaction to President Donald Trump's raising the mental health issue, including his warning about increased suicides. You know how anything Trump says is automatically discarded as a lie or the product of a crazed mind.

Whatever the explanation,  examines the subject in Science News:

Social distancing comes with psychological fallout

Experts warn prolonged isolation during the pandemic may worsen or trigger mental health problems

Here are some selections from the article

Many quarantined individuals experienced both short- and long-term mental health problems, including stress, insomnia, emotional exhaustion and substance abuse.

  • One cited study found that symptoms worsen after a 10-quarantine.
  • "Health problems associated with social isolation tend to crop up when the situation goes on beyond a few weeks."
  • "Especially at risk are the elderly, who both get more ill from the coronavirus and already experience high rates of social isolation."

And modern technology is no substitute for human touch, such as holding hands, hugging or massage, which studies suggest can affect health, including possibly lowering blood pressure and reducing the severity of symptoms from the common cold.

Neuroscientist James Coan especially worries about those individuals requiring medical care during this pandemic, either for COVID-19 or some other condition. Many hospitals are barring visits from loved ones which makes sense to prevent the virus’ spread. But that also reduces touch when people need it most, says Coan of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. His work suggests, for instance, that handholding can reduce physical pain.

The social and economic disruption caused by isolation on a national and global scale is unprecedented and unstudied. We're flying blind when trying to estimate the threat of the coronavirus to public health. It's time to start considering all the consequences, some of them unintended and unseen, of such a desperate and radical change to our life style.

dennis@dennisbyrne.net

www.dennisbyrne.net 

My historical novel: Madness: The War of 1812

Comments

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  • A number of writers have shared your concern with the psychological effects of social distancing. Isolation can cause serious mental health consequences. The problem is that we also have a deadly physical health threat. Social distancing is our best current defense against the spread of Covid-19.

    Until the pandemic has crested, how can we address both threats? None of the writers I have seen suggests a solution for our quandary. It seems many families and many people are finding creative ways to reach out to those who are most at risk through phone calls, notes, signs, through-window visits. Beyond this, and short of surrendering to the virus, I'm not sure what else we can do. Do you have a suggestion?

  • I don't have a definitive answer. I try to follow the guidelines and stay optimistic. Despite it all, I think we will make our way out of this and because of it, be so much the stronger and the wiser.

  • That is so true. It is a difficult situation to deal with even for a normal person. There are people who already face mental issues and for them isolation, quarantine and even social distancing is going to add to the stress. The fact that we will come out of it may be forgotten by many. You could get in touch with Dr.G.Balamurali at http://www.drgbalamurali.com to improve the mental stability during lockdown

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