Coronavirus pandemic: how does loneliness and isolation affect a person?

The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 revealed humanity from many different sides. And now, already in 2022, scientists can summarize the results of their research, which would not have been possible without a general lockdown two years ago.

In a new study by British scientists from The University of York was attended by 70 people aged 17 to 73 years. “Isolation was an extraordinary event and provided a wonderful opportunity to study how people of all ages experience loneliness,” says psychologist Rowena Leary.

The volunteers answered a number of open questions about the lockdown, including positive and negative points, as well as about their use of social networks. Although they were not asked to write specifically about loneliness, this topic was often raised.

General loneliness

Scientists analyzed and encoded various responses, identifying three key types of loneliness:

  • social loneliness (lack of contact with friends and family);
  • emotional loneliness (lack of close ties, romantic relationships);
  • existential loneliness (feeling of complete isolation from other people).

“Existential loneliness is often caused by thinking about death,— says Leary. “This is an interesting type of loneliness, because there is no obvious way — for example, to provide opportunities for communication — to help people who experience it.”

The researchers suggest that further studies of people who enjoy solitude may provide a clue to how others can be protected from its negative consequences. “It seems important to identify strategies to overcome loneliness — perhaps sometimes even benefit from it. And we need to think about how we can help different people learn and use such strategies,” says psychologist Catherine Asbury from York University.

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