Dial-Tone Deaf To Homeless Isolation During A Crisis
Being alone or isolated is proven to have a negative impact on health and wellbeing including mental health, especially in the elder population. For an older adult, even one who has never smoked a day in their life, isolation is as unhealthy as chain-smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Earlier this week, Robin Wright of The New Yorker wrote about a 2015 study examining the impact of social isolation, loneliness, and living alone by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Brigham Young University. Holt-Lunstad’s study revealed that "Loneliness increased the rate of early death by 26 percent; social isolation led to an increased rate of mortality of 29 percent, and living alone by 32 percent.”
Holt-Lunstad’s report went on to say, "Loneliness is not just a feeling. It’s a biological warning signal to seek out other humans, much as hunger is a signal that leads a person to seek out food, or thirst is a signal to hunt for water.”
Now imagine the impact of isolation and loneliness during a crisis like the one we are presently experiencing. Today isolation is critical to survival despite its negative health implications.
In her New Yorker article Wright adds, "During the coronavirus pandemic, the loneliness signal may increase for many—with limited ways of alleviating it.” She continues, “I live alone and have no family, and usually don’t think much about it. But, as the new pathogen forces us to socially distance, I have begun to feel lonely. I miss the ability to see, converse with, hug, or spend time with friends.” Concludes Wright,
"Life seems shallower,
more like survival than living."
Fortunately while social or physical distancing, most people can and are reaching out by phone, text, email and video to stay connected. They are using their devices and the occasion to engage with others, entertain, vent (or rant), offer solutions, and check on the health and wellbeing of others.