Social isolation is a phenomenon that typically affects seniors. It can have significant consequences on mental and physical health. More specifically, when we speak of social isolation, we mean that a person has little contact with others or that the contacts are poor in quality. Today, social isolation is affecting the entire population, regardless of age or social status.
Health Impacts of Social Isolation
Preventive measures recommended by public health authorities aim to protect the population and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases. However, social distancing can pose a risk to mental and physical health by possibly leading to social isolation.
Most studies on social isolation focus on seniors. It has been established that those living in isolation are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and premature death. In terms of mental health, feeling lonely can promote symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
In the current context, social isolation can be accentuated among the elderly who are particularly at risk. For the general population, a sudden feeling of loneliness can have significant impacts on mental health.
Physical Distancing and Social Solidarity
Instead of social distancing, let’s talk about physical distancing. This term emphasizes the physical distance that must be respected to prevent the spread of COVID-19, leaving more room for social solidarity.
There are many ways to foster a feeling of closeness between employers and employees and reduce the risks of social isolation. Here are some examples:
- Use videoconferencing tools for meetings;
- Encourage teams to stay in contact on a regular basis, for example by taking breaks together over videoconference;
- Consider offering flexible work hours to allow employees to be present for their children, parents and those around them;
- Support employees by sharing reliable information on COVID-19 or providing resources for those who need them.
Reminder of physical distancing measures
Physical distancing measures are the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Self-isolation is currently recommended for everyone; this means staying at home, except for essential outings. If you do go out, keep a physical distance of one to two metres between yourself and others. If you are in contact with other people for an extended period of time or if you have symptoms, maintain a physical distance of two metres between yourself and others.