Days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, governments around the world have enforced social isolation measurements to stop the spread of the virus. While the severity of the virus on human beings was still unknown, governments acted swift and with determination claiming that they’d rather “be safe than sorry”.
At the same time, there exists more than 30,000 publications dating back to 1945 about social isolation and its effects on human beings from infancy all the way to old age. None of it concludes that social isolation has no or little effect. The majority (if not all) of these studies performed in laboratory animals, non-human primates, and human beings, all point towards one conclusion: social isolation carries serious and detrimental effects on an individual’s physical, and mental health and overall well-being.
Scientists from Columbia University have even claimed that “there is now compelling evidence that the health risk of social isolation is comparable to the risks of smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, even after controlling for other variables.”
Even before the pandemic, social isolation has been growing in our societies like a bad weed severely impairing the lives of millions of people. Why have we turned a blind eye knowing that certain measurements will create more harm than good?
It seems that the decisions that were made in relation to the pandemic were biased and one-sided focusing on COVID-19 patients and them alone. However everything in this world is interconnected, our health, our economy, but also our mental well-being. I still wonder, why weren’t psychologists, neuroscientists, and ethicists on governmental advising committees?
Katherine Bassil, PhD at the department of psychiatry and neuropsychology