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  • Natalie Lee, MHS

How Quarantine Stresses the Importance of Social Life

You may have heard the term “mental health” being thrown around, especially with quarantine and social distancing restrictions in place. Before diving into the critical link between mental health and social connectivity, let’s talk about mental health. Even though mental health awareness month is in May, it is important to be cognizant of mental health—of others and of one’s own. According to CDC (2018), mental health encompasses “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being” and influences how people live their lives: more specifically, “how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.” Mental health has an immense impact on overall health, for someone with strong mental health is less prone to various physical conditions including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Because one’s mental health can fluctuate based on various factors, monitoring your mental health is essential to keeping up a healthy life.

The key to maintaining mental health is by keeping up one’s social life, defined in Psychology Today as a part of a person’s life that “consists of the various bonds they form with others, such as family, friends, members of their community, and strangers.” Humans are naturally a social species and find comfort in face-to-face contact. Susan Pinker, a psychologist, says to Medical News Today that “face-to-face contact releases…oxytocin, which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress.” A study by NatCen Social Research (2008) found that “people with higher wellbeing have more positive relationships” and “ tend to have parents, partners, and children who also have higher wellbeing.” In short, social relationships, whether intimate, relational, or collective, are vital components to one’s wellbeing and happiness.

Since social health is associated with mental health, it can also be indirectly linked to various physical health conditions. In fact, loneliness, often caused by social isolation, is connected to depression, a serious mental illness. Depression can lead to greater “risks of high blood pressure, obesity and alcohol and drug abuse,” according to Meredith Williamson, PhD, in Dominic Hernandez’s article on Texas A&M Health, Vital Record (2018).

Quarantine during the pandemic has limited social interactions, causing people to realize the significance of their social lives. The decline of social interactions has caused a rise of loneliness and emotional distress, according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad’s article on Health Affairs (2020). The social isolation has also escalated “mental health concerns, substance abuse, and domestic violence.” From remote work and education to calling off sports and entertainment events, the pandemic has altered life as we know it, and people are starting to show more appreciation for the social component in their lives.

Quarantine has had different effects on different age groups. The lack of structure will make it more difficult for young children to stick to routines, says Jena Lee, MD, in Joe Gramigna’s article on Healio (2020). On the other hand, adolescents will struggle more with maintaining their mental health, says Sarah K. Lipson, PhD. According to Sagar V. Parikh, MD, FRCPC, adults will experience more anxiety due to worrying about safety and other essential issues when they are not at work. Although loneliness is not as large of an issue for older adults, this age group still needs social relationships to keep them mentally well.

Many people have found creative ways to keep in touch. Most people use the conventional methods of calling and texting, but with the technological advancements of this century, people have been connecting over video chatting, social media, and online gaming. Here are some tips to improve mental wellbeing from Allison Aubrey of NPR (2020):

  1. Connect online through meaningful activities (rather than trivial scrolling through social media).

  2. Create art, whether that be visual art or creative writing.

  3. Reach out to senior citizens and connect through volunteering.

  4. Preserve your friendships, even with small gestures (e.g., baking something for them, playing some games or puzzles with them).

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