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Social Isolation: Risks for Health Problems

Introduction

If at the beginning of this year, people were told that later they would be allowed to leave their apartments only for shopping or walking a dog, no one would have believed in such forecasts. However, the global coronavirus epidemic has radically changed the lives of people all around the world. In March, April, and May, we had a chance to work from home and communicate more closely than usual with our family members. Although the usual order of things will be gradually restored epidemiologists warn about the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19. The experience of staying at home during the pandemic is psychologically traumatic for everybody. It has become impossible for the majority of us to lead our usual lifestyle; many adults have lost jobs and faced financial problems (Luthar, 2003). Besides, no one can tell exactly when the epidemic would be stopped and what consequences the situation will have. Nevertheless, during isolation, some people feel better than others. The purpose of this paper is to describe which individual characteristics might pose a risk and which ones serve as protective factors during social isolation.

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Individual Characteristics that Pose a Risk

The lack of financial resources and fears about the future contribute to the psychological discomfort all people experience because of being within the confines of four walls. However, the psychological consequences will depend on the individual characteristics of a particular person. Extraverts for whom socialization is a key element for personal well-being might feel depressed and devastated while staying at home all the time (Frison & Eggermont, 2017). Moreover, it should be taken into consideration that for many people, self-organization is based on external factors. For example, children and adolescents have to come to schools and other educational institutions by a certain time; adults have to be at work in the morning. Because of COVID-19 and the resulting necessity of decreasing social contacts, this organizational principle has become weaker or even vanished for certain groups of the population. Hence, those who have poor skills in self-organization and planning without appropriate external factors are at risk of developing depression. They do not know how to allocate time or what to do while being in isolation.

The necessity of staying at home and minimizing the number of contacts is hard itself; at the same time, it can aggravate the problems that already exist. For example, before the quarantine, people with an alcohol or food addiction had to exercise self-denial at times to go to work or meet with friends. During the isolation, such individuals have no restricting factors; on the contrary, there is much time and a variety of good reasons for consuming food or alcoholic beverages in large quantities. Men and women who suffer from inferiority complex or other psychological issues also belong to the group of most affected people. Like drinkers or food addicts, when being isolated, they have more time to dwell on their problems while there are no distractions.

Those who cannot get on well with their family members also fall under the category described. Usually, people do not have to stay with their mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, or children all the time. In isolation, which means less personal space they do; thus, the quarantine can make relations with family members more strained. For example, children and teenagers from affluent families might find it difficult to spend much time with their parents. Usually, wealthy mothers and fathers are busy with work while their sons and daughters feel neglected and insulted by their parents (Luthar, 2003). According to the appropriate statistics, 72% of girls and 59% of boys from rich families use alcohol and drugs respectively (Luthar, 2003). These indicators are much higher in comparison to the numbers reported by children from middle-class families (Luthar, 2003). All in all, individuals who have serious problems in their life which are usually concealed also might feel depressed and devastated while being isolated because the quarantine makes existing difficulties worse.

Protective Factors

The situation that the world is now dealing with is new to the majority of countries. However, isolation-related experiments were conducted; during such studies, test persons stayed on a desert island, in a lighthouse, or other remote places with a minimal number of contacts. The experiments show that those who are used to receiving basic emotions and impressions from some events outside bear isolation heavily. At the same time, practicing a hobby that does not require other people’s involvement helps to feel better and stay in a good mood while being at home due to COVID-19.

Increasing self-control and self-organization might also help to cope with the difficulties posed by the pandemic. People have to get used to planning their days and weeks for following a particular schedule is important for struggling with depression. Furthermore, to maintain a positive emotional state, one can think not about what they are deprived of but about the new opportunities. The isolation might be regarded as the time for finishing different projects and implementing the ideas that people have had to postpone before due to a tight schedule.

Influence of Isolation on Teenagers

Speaking about teenagers drawn to “risky behavior”, in my opinion, it is hard for them to endure staying at home all the time. Adolescents tend to put themselves in dangerous situations because they want to explore their limits and express individuality (Steinberg, 2010). For such young adults, following imposed rules is unbearable; hence, the teens perceive the quarantine as a restriction of their freedom (Steinberg, 2010). Unlike the group described above, adolescents who are not inclined to risky behavior are wiser and find less dangerous ways of coping with the difficulties of their age (Steinberg, 2010). Such teens might endure the isolation better than their risky peers.

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Conclusion

A significant risk factor for all adolescence is the usage of social networks. During the isolation, teenage boys and girls spend much more time browsing Instagram and posting photos and videos. This might intensify negative feelings generated by staying at home (Frison & Eggermont, 2017). Researchers note that there is a direct connection between the usage of social networks and depressive symptoms in young people of 18-29 years old (Frison & Eggermont, 2017). The ground is that seeing bright pictures posted by others on Instagram might negatively affect one’s self-esteem (Frison & Eggermont, 2017). To get rid of depression and other negative feelings, young adults might use the protective factors described above. Besides, they can talk to parents, relatives, or older friends who might help them to feel better. In conclusion, the quarantine enforced due to COVID-19 is a hard time for all people. However, introverts, people with poor planning skills or serious problems, and teenagers are drawn to risky behavior are most affected by the situation.

References

Frison, E. & Eggermont, S. (2017). Browsing, posting, and liking on Instagram: The reciprocal relationships between different types of Instagram use and adolescents’ depressed mood. Cyberpscyhology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 20, 603-609.

Luthar, S. S. (2003). The culture of affluence: Psychological costs of material wealth. Child development, 74(6), 1581-1593.

Steinberg, L. (2010). A dual systems model of adolescent risk‐taking. Developmental Psychobiology: The Journal of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology, 52(3), 216-224.

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