The Pandemic will Make You – and Everyone Else -- More Lonely, Right?

Living through a pandemic, with many people quarantined in their homes, will lead to a new epidemic: Loneliness. That is a fear expressed by some. The reasons for this thinking make sense: Having to keep our distance from others; not being able to see our friends; isolated from family members; and not interacting with other people at our place of work. All of this social distancing will surely lead to severe consequences for most of us.

That might be the conventional thinking. But what is the evidence?

In a recent national survey, researchers found that one month into state lockdowns, people were no more likely to feel isolated and lonely than they were before Covid-19 struck. In fact, some people said they feel more connected to others now than they did before. The findings, researchers at Florida State University College of Medicine say, are a measure of how well people have adjusted during the pandemic. 

Of course, many of us at some time or another do feel a sense of isolation. So says lead researcher Martina Luchetti, an assistant professor at Florida State University College of Medicine. However, Dr. Luchetti’s survey results found no increase in loneliness. That was even true for certain groups you might expect to be at particular risk. Those groups would include people living alone and those with chronic health conditions.

The survey also discovered that some older adults did report an increased feeling of loneliness at the beginning of the health crisis when social distancing recommendations were first issued in many cities and states. But those feelings leveled off after stay-at-home orders came into force.

So, why weren’t most people feeling lonely?

The survey results couldn’t quite answer that question. But Dr. Luchetti said that many people quickly realized that "social distance"; does not have to mean social isolation. The results of this realization align with what many people are saying anecdotally. That is, most of us are finding ways to connect – obviously, with the help of platforms like FaceTime, WebEx, Skype, Google Meet and Zoom.

"People may be checking in with each other more, and checking in with friends who they were connecting with before"; Dr. Luchetti said.

As a matter of fact, the quality of many connections with friends and family may have improved. When people ask “How are you?”, they may really want to know.

To read the full article, go to:
Luchetti, M., Lee, J. H., Aschwanden, D., Sesker, A., Strickhouser, J. E., Terracciano, A., & Sutin, A. R. (2020). The trajectory of loneliness in response to COVID-19. American Psychologist.

Written by James Windell, MA

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