Social isolation is described as the lack of social connections between individuals and the society. In most cases, this form of isolation is linked to loneliness in some of the victims, while others are known to feel lonely without the need to be socially isolated. Social isolation is also linked to serious mental health conditions. In older adults, social isolation is associated with serious health risks and mental illnesses. The risks put individuals highly vulnerable to dementia and other medical conditions. The older adults suffer an increased risk of social isolation as they are subjected to living alone, loss of family or friends, chronic illnesses and hearing loss (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 1).
Health Risks Associated with Social Isolation
The survival and thriving in human beings is highly dependent on the connection to others. Although it is difficult to provide strong evidence of social isolation in older adults, loneliness puts their health at risk (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 1). For instance, the individuals are subjected to risks of premature death rivaling smokers, physical inactivity and obesity. Additionally, higher medical risks are associated with a variety of mental and physical health conditions like high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, weakened immune system, heart disease and even death. In cases of broad-based mortality and morbidity, social isolation is thus considered a significant risk factor.
Effects of Social Isolation on Humans
In situations involving social isolation, it is important to keep in mind that events involving helplessness, disruption of normal lifestyles and overwhelm can be identified as trauma. This form of distress results in long-term effects on the mental health of individuals. Therefore, to reduce psychological distress, boost the immune system, improve the quality of life and gain control over one’s personal life, the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is highly recommended (Krosch 21). CAM massage therapy is also advised to help reduce anxiety, immune function, fatigue, pain and sleep patterns (Krosch 22). Each individual reacts differently in situations involving social isolation. Some of the signs accompanied by this form of isolation are inclusive of:
- Sleep disruption- The lack of enough sleep may lead to grogginess. The production of melatonin in the body may result in insomnia, nightmares, sleep disturbances, depression, tossing and turning and anxiety (Triangle Springs 2).
- Loneliness- Isolation during the epidemic may increase cases of loneliness. It is constantly associated with emotional level from disconnection (Triangle Springs 2). Chronic loneliness on the other hand may be painful thus leading to serious health issues.
- Depression- It requires immediate attention as it is related to suicidal thoughts, fatigues, emptiness, sadness and hopelessness (Triangle Springs 2).
- Stress and anxiety- Isolation and the integration back into society are linked to stress and anxiety. The feeling of being on the edge may lower immunity, cause digestive issues, concentration difficulty, heart palpitations, elevation of cortisol levels and the disruption of sleep (Triangle Springs 2).
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – If symptoms of mental health issues persist, one may be diagnosed with PTSD (Triangle Springs 2). Once trauma occurs, the symptoms of the disorder begin to show. The feelings of isolation and distancing from loved ones and the lack of adequate basic needs are also associated to cases of PTSD.
Comparison Between Social Isolation and Loneliness
There exists a distinction between loneliness and social isolation. One may suffer the feeling of isolation but not feel lonely. Regardless, one may be in the presence of the company of other people and still experience the feeling of loneliness. While there exist the close relation, loneliness is mostly associated with the sense of solitude (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 1). Hence, both concepts are often overlooked. It is often triggered by the loss of a loved one, lack of mobility, and loss of career. This type of loss may lead to depression, thus the lack of proper social interactions. Therefore, isolation and loneliness may develop as a result of the feeling of lack of purpose.
Social isolation and loneliness are then linked as loneliness may lead to social isolation and vice versa (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 1). Consequently, the two can both occur simultaneously. Different levels of both social isolation and loneliness can be experienced throughout an individual’s lifetime. One can only get in and out of both states through the change in personal circumstances. Both situations also share similar factors through the association in the likelihood for individuals to experience mobility and sensory impairments and poor health.
Contrast Between Social Isolation and Loneliness
In contrast to pictures, stronger focus on self-preservation and nonsocial consistency with remnants in predator evasion, isolation led to the activation visual cortex. The examination of this possibility is also associated with the activation of the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) (Cacioppo et al. 4) The TPJ is defined as the region that is activated in tasks running in the mind and allows for individuals to take another perspective. This activation can be observed once the individuals are allowed to take view of unpleasant photos of people as compared to other objects.
Therefore, a focus on the predators can be directly linked to social isolation with the perception of individual differences. Isolation is also linked to negative emotional effects. As a side effect of mental health issues, individuals may seclude themselves and become socially isolated. These are inclusive of agoraphobia and social anxiety. The individuals may get the feeling of anxiety when asked to leave the house. Loneliness on the other hand is considered an emotional state and is defined as the feeling of wanting to be alone (Cacioppo et al. 3). By feeling empty, loneliness is accompanied by social isolation. Through this difficulty, the prolonged feeling of being alone may result in mental health. It may also lead to the impact of cognitive development through poor physical health habits.