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Isolation and Social Distancing- Are there Long Term Social Effects?

Isolation and Social Distancing- Are there Long Term Social Effects?

March 18, 2020

Quarantines date back to antiquity. In Bible times, even after ceremonial cleansing or healing, people were ordered to “stay outside their tent for seven days.” (Leviticus 14:8)  Closer to home, in the mid 1600’s, those arriving in ships to the U.S. were known to be quarantined because of the plague. More recently, during the Spanish flu and SARS epidemic, quarantine was used in other countries to help end the epidemic. Now, with the Corona virus, we face the same quarantines, isolation and social distancing. Social distancing, school closures, and bans on public gatherings all being implemented to curb the effects of the virus.

As health concerns continue to grow and isolation, social distancing and quarantine become part of the U.S culture, should we be concerned about long term social effects?

According to one study published by the US National Library of Medicine, following the SARS quarantine of 2003, which used the same measures we are using today,  “All respondents described a sense of isolation. The mandated lack of social and, especially, the lack of any physical contact with family members were identified as particularly difficult. Confinement within the home or between work and home, not being able to see friends, not being able to shop for basic necessities of everyday life, and not being able to purchase thermometers and prescribed medications enhanced their feeling of distance from the outside world. Infection control measures imposed not only the physical discomfort of having to wear a mask but also significantly contributed to the sense of isolation. In some, self-monitoring of temperature provoked considerable anxiety.”  Those with depressive symptoms had a greater risk of PTSD. After quarantine, many still felt that people reacted differently to them, avoided them or didn’t include them in family or outside events.

Understanding the probability of long term social effects can help each of us to bring a measure of healing to the communities we belong to. Most importantly, if anyone is having significant issues with fear, changes in sleep or eating patterns, worsening of chronic health problems or increased use of substances like alcohol or other drug, it is important to seek professional help. Coping with the feeling associated with isolation and distancing can include talking with a counselor or other trained professional and it is normal to experience these effects after experiencing isolation.

In the meantime, here is a list by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help support yourself during the current health crisis:

  • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
  • Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.

As a community of faith, CRISTA Senior Living endeavors to maintain and reflect a sense of hope every day, and not just in a crisis. We encourage you to meditate each day on scriptures such as the ones below that can bring hope and anticipation for a healthy future.

Jeremiah 17:14 Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones