Is Social Isolation Killing You?
by John Uke • May 27, 2020
“Coronavirus” is the first thing that comes to mind lately when thinking about a pandemic. News of the virus is almost impossible to avoid, and the outbreak has left millions displaced, isolated, and disconnected from the world. There’s another problem that arises from this. It’s different, but still pretty dangerous. Something that might’ve infected you already, and that no amount of facemasks, toilet paper, or hand sanitizer stockpiling can cure. We’re talking about loneliness.
It’s not unusual for people like gamers, or other Internet-savvy folks, to be holed up in their rooms for hours at a time, but even they can feel lonely. The small step from self-imposed isolation to state-mandated quarantine can make the effects of loneliness much worse.
Loneliness can have lasting physical and mental effects. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder. (1) She also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. (1)
We, as humans, are social creatures by nature. There’s a reason Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs includes “belongingness and love”. We crave social contact. Without it, the effects of loneliness and isolation can wreak havoc on our bodies both psychologically and physiologically.
So, what does that mean for us living through the Coronavirus quarantine? A study on these effects of isolation said that parents/children who were quarantined had a mean post-traumatic stress score four times higher than those who were not. (2) Studies that report these scores, as a result of a quarantine, show a high prevalence of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and emotional exhaustion. (2) Another study event went as far to confirm that social isolation is, in fact, linked to an increased risk of premature death. (3) Physician’s have recently discovered that death can have a terrible toll on your body.
All joking aside, not everything is doom and gloom. Here’s the light at the end of the tunnel…
As gamers, we’ve got a secret weapon in combating this virus and loneliness-stricken pandemic. Even though we’ve been physically cut off from friends, we can always be connected through the virtual world. Through gaming, we can stave off this hidden pandemic. Multiplayer games are connecting people like never before, and even single player games have grown communities at an incredible rate. That means you’re living in an age of connection like no other.
However, to fend off loneliness, there’s more to it than just playing games. Gaming is also about the meaning you create, the engagement you have, the accomplishments you earn, and the relationships you form. (4)
A recent study (4) discovered that relationships play a significant role in contributing to happiness and psychological health. They note that online communities can enhance both the quality and quantity of communication between people, leading to greater closeness and intimacy. Finally, they summarized their findings by saying that in-game relationships offer social and emotional support where players are able to discuss sensitive issues and exchange messages of affection in a way that they may not feel comfortable doing in real life. (4)
GameTree works hard to help foster those gaming relationships to generate meaning, engagement, and even accomplishments in order to keep us from a social isolation-themed doom. The app’s matchmaking does more than just match you with other gamers, GameTree uses personality typing to tailor your social experiences and game recommendations. With communities built around individual titles, you’ll never run out of people to speak to, or have to worry about feeling lonely again.
The truth of the matter is that the Coronavirus pandemic is far from over. That means, consciously or not, we’re all going to be feeling unprecedented levels of loneliness trapped inside our social isolation bunkers. Let’s all take the right steps in overcoming both of these pandemics. Remember to wash your hands to stop the spread of the virus, and, when you start feeling lonely, good old online gaming with GameTree can be the perfect medicine.
Sources (referenced in APA, and parenthetically)
- (1) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1745691614568352
- (2) Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., & Greenberg, N. (2020, February 26). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext?fbclid=IwAR36LpFsHEjd2YHpM-UR7ip_qV8ZPIKmPiEatpm5fkSuhV8bhCSNT0cy_r8
- (3) https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/188/1/102/5133254
- (4) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00260/full#B29