Loneliness in a World of Social Distancing

Loneliness in a World of Social Distancing

More than 37 million people are living in Canada, yet many Canadians have never felt more alone as they do in the unprecedented times of COVID-19. The Angus Reid Institute and the Cardus think tank collaborated on a recent study that found that before the pandemic, an astonishing 23 percent of the country experienced extreme loneliness and social isolation. Imagine the number in the time since. 

The mandatory measures currently in place restricting people from visiting their friends and loved ones have no doubt ushered in new mental health challenges stemming from social distancing, and that isolation correlates with many negative side effects that can have an impact on every area of a person’s life – most notably on their body. Loneliness has been shown to have debilitating physical effects on the body ranging from depression to a weakened immune system, and in the era of global pandemics, this is certainly no asset.

One of the main troubles faced by those who are socially isolated is often a feeling that they don’t have anyone they can turn to for help during an emergency. If mandatory self-isolation had theoretically been in place for months and these individuals eventually did get sick, perhaps they would be in too poor of mental health by that point to reach out and seek help for their rapidly deteriorating physical health. When those problems do arise, they can quickly spiral out of control if they are not dealt with promptly. 

This is especially true for people with disabilities, who already experienced social isolation at a much higher rate (38 percent) than the rest of the population before the pandemic – and now face a host of new accessibility challenges in the new world that has emerged since. 

For starters, someone who isn’t physically able to leave the house (or struggles to do so) is much more likely to be left alone for long periods – now that visits from neighbors and loved ones have been restricted. For some, this could mean the loss of a reliable means to secure groceries and other essentials as well. 

Thankfully, for all of the negative risk factors, there are indeed many ways to combat feelings of isolation during COVID-19. To begin with, if you’re fortunate enough to be married, spend more quality time with your spouse! Married people (or those in common-law relationships) are far less likely to feel extreme isolation. 

For those who aren’t married, many great platforms exist through which you can stay meaningfully connected to the important people in your life. Facetime, Whatsapp, and Google Hangouts are all fantastic tools that can be used for voice calls to stay close to the people closest to you. The key takeaway is that it’s beneficial in times like these to have some kind of community. 

With a new era on the horizon where social distancing will become a required practice, there are many current opportunities to adapt to the changing world while putting self-improvement and safety at the forefront of the process. As one example, stores are now starting to provide curbside pickup and delivery for purchases without necessitating you leave your car (or your house in some cases). With the ability to learn skills and languages through tools like Lynda.com and Rosetta Stone rounding out its capabilities, the online realm is full of promise regarding how best to adapt to the new circumstances in a way that puts you front and center while keeping distance adequate and acceptable.

In Canada, many people share feelings of loneliness and isolation – especially during times of crisis such as these. The even greater challenge moving forward will be to find ways to connect from afar so that no one has to feel like they’re going through life alone. It’s not ideal, but together, we can embrace the new normal. 

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