Health

Loneliness in Coronavirus Pandemic Is Severely Harmful to Mental Health

Image: Forbes

Social distancing and staying at home are two primary steps that play a fundamental role in controlling virus spread in the current ongoing coronavirus pandemic and have been the primary reason why many countries have been able to cut down the rates of cases of new infections.

In fact, new studies have shown that over three hundred million new cases of the coronavirus infection were prevented due to the nationwide lockdowns imposed by almost every country affected by the virus for at least three months at the beginning of the pandemic.

Additionally, New Zealand, which became the first country to declare itself coronavirus-free last Monday was partly successful due to its immediate response to the health crisis and strict restrictions as well as economic lockdown that paved the way for fewest coronavirus-related deaths and lower transmission rates.

Read also: New Zealand Becomes the First Country to be Coronavirus-free 

Therefore, health experts have recommended that both practices should be followed even after easing lockdown-related restrictions in many of the countries which have been able to control coronavirus spread at least for another year in order to cut down the risk of a second wave of the coronavirus infection.

However, even though social distancing and isolation are important, scientists have also noted that both can significantly increase the levels of loneliness in people, especially older adults who already have limited contact with relatives and friends.

For example, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Haifa and Bar-Ilan University, whose findings appear in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has shown that loneliness due to coronavirus pandemic is associated with worsened symptoms of mental health disorders including anxiety, depressive episodes, and trauma.

The researchers specifically focused on older adults, who are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus infection due to underlying health issues and weakened immunity and hence have to follow the restrictions and preventive guidelines much more strictly.

One of the most interesting findings of the study, according to the team, was that the symptoms were much more visible in severe in some older adults than others depending on how they perceived older age. For instance, the adults who considered themselves younger than they actually were had little to no symptoms of mental health disorders while adults who felt older had much more severe symptoms.

Amit Shrira, who is a professor at the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, explained that “The way older adults perceive old age and their own aging may be more important to their coping and wellbeing than their chronological age,”

The findings highlight that older adults may not only be at a higher risk of contracting and having a more severe form of coronavirus infection but also mental health disorders during the pandemic.

Secondly, the results of the study can be used to prepare early intervention programs that can help older adults shape the different perceptions of the process of aging and older age in general, thereby also preparing for health epidemics in the future.

For the time being, a common question asked by people is what exactly can be done to help with the feelings of loneliness in older adults during the current coronavirus pandemic. According to psychologists, the answer simply is increasing communication with older adults while following safety guidelines.

This can be done by talking on the phone, staying in touch through social media, and various other means. Regular talking and checking up can significantly help older adults in feeling less lonely during the health crisis especially if done by relatives and close friends.

For diverting attention, older adults can also be encouraged to engage in activities that require concentration including reading, writing, and others.

 

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Abeera I. Kazmi

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