COVID-19 Is Coinciding With a Loneliness Epidemic

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COVID-19 Is Coinciding With a Loneliness Epidemic

By MICHAEL LEE STALLARD and KATHARINE P. STALLARD

Government Executive

The novel coronavirus pandemic demands social distancing, quarantine and isolation so that vulnerable individuals are not exposed to the virus and healthcare systems are not overwhelmed. Collectively, we understand the goodness of “flattening the curve.” Each of us must do our part to slow the spread of the virus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. But it is not the only epidemic we are facing right now. The requirement to separate ourselves from others comes at a time when America and many other nations are in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness whose antidote is greater positive social connection. 

Our current situation—the simultaneous need to reduce physical distance and to increase social, or relational, connection to curb the rise in loneliness—presents a challenge for us all. Ignoring the need for connection at this time is not an option. Research suggests that the majority of individuals today lack sufficient social connection. This connection deficit may exacerbate the negative effects of stress and diminish physical and emotional resilience that people will need to fight the COVID-19 virus. 

Relational connection is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, there are steps people can take to boost social connection while maintaining physical distance. Individuals can still experience the physical and emotional health benefits that arise from sufficient meaningful connection, which will help them fare better through this difficult time.  Read more