Can social isolation harm one’s health? People need social interaction for companionship, support, leisure activities, and personal growth. Social isolation refers to physically separating oneself from society or a specific group. Jacqueline Old argues that individuals in modern developed countries who desire independence and do not want to burden others often find themselves alone.
Throughout history, humans have relied on their families and neighbors for interaction and support, highlighting their inherent sociability. Consequently, various relationships such as friendships, marriages, and engagements have emerged. This essay argues that the absence of social connections can harm an individual’s physical, mental, and behavioral well-being. The first consequence of isolating oneself from society is the negative impact it has on one’s physical health.
According to Cacioppo and Hawkley (2003), social isolation has a greater impact on certain demographic groups, such as the elderly, the poor, and minorities like African Americans. House et al. (1988) also found similar results. Furthermore, Cacioppo and Hawkley (2003) further explored the relationship between social isolation and physical health. They discovered that individuals who engage in social activities and maintain relationships with others generally experience better overall health and cognitive abilities compared to those who are socially isolated.
According to Arthur (2006), social isolation is connected to a higher chance of experiencing cardiovascular issues. Their study showed that insufficient social support can result in both morbidity and mortality related to the cardiovascular system (Arthur & Mookadam). However, Cacippo and Hawkley (2003) dispute this claim by suggesting that chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease are influenced by additional factors including smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and sedentary lifestyles.
They noted the lack of understanding regarding the risk of social isolation on cardiovascular disease. The study by Uchino and colleagues (1996) shed light on the impact of loneliness on physical health, revealing that socially connected individuals have lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, and lower stress hormone levels compared to those who are socially isolated. However, Arthur’s study in 2006 contradicts this, suggesting uncertainty in whether group therapy or socialization can enhance secondary prevention of Coronary Heart Disease.
Additional research is needed to investigate the impact of socialization on physical health, as various studies and arguments highlight its significance. Furthermore, social isolation plays a role in the decline of mental health. Conversely, individuals with mental illness may experience isolation from their own families, worsening their condition. Anxiety frequently acts as an early sign of mental illness and can develop into depression, ultimately leading to psychological disorders.
According to Twenge (2000), individuals with mental illness often express loneliness through anxiety and depression, while prolonged social isolation can lead to serious health problems such as morbidity and mortality. In contrast, Brummett et al. (2001) discovered that being around others and having social connections can alleviate stress and other health issues. They explained that isolation causes changes in the body’s functioning and increased arousal, whereas interacting with others reduces physiological arousal, especially during stressful situations. Wilkinson and Marmot (2003) further argue that people seek social interaction because they desire care, love, respect, and worth.
According to Kawachi and Berkman (2001), socialization has a positive impact on mental health outcomes, such as stress reactions, psychological wellbeing, distress, anxiety, and depression. The study suggests that individuals who have social connections experience better mental health compared to those who are lonely. In addition, both physical and mental illnesses lead to different behaviors than those with good health. Social integration is seen as a way to promote healthy behavior (Cornwell and Waite, 2009). It has the potential to eliminate risky behaviors such as smoking, engaging in unsafe sexual activities, and having an unhealthy diet. Adolescents are particularly affected by social isolation during their learning stage because they observe and learn from their surroundings. Growing up in lonely environments during this stage can result in lower self-esteem levels and more psychological issues (Hall-Lande et al., 2007). Research shows that loneliness contributes to the development of suicidal behavior among adolescents.
Research has indicated that adolescents who are raised in a friendly environment have higher adaptability and lower suicide risk. Additionally, another study found that teenagers from social families engage in sexual activity at a later age, have fewer instances of pregnancy, experience less substance abuse, and make fewer suicide attempts (DeVore and Ginsburg, 2005; Resnick et al., 1997). Thus, it is vital to ensure that children are surrounded by positive companionship and a supportive family environment for their healthy development. Regrettably, social isolation is on the rise as individuals increasingly pursue independence and immediate gratification.
Internet and computers are causing humans to become more disconnected from society. Nowadays, children are not going to the playground to play; instead, they are playing computer games, which separates them from their friends. If this continues, it will have an impact on people of all ages, including the elderly, adults, and especially teenagers, affecting their overall health.
The preference of children for computer games over outdoor activities is contributing to societal disconnection among people of different age groups due to excessive internet use. This disconnection has subsequent effects on physical and mental well-being. These three factors – children’s preference for computer games over outdoor activities, societal disconnection among people of different age groups due to excessive internet use and its subsequent effects on physical and mental well-being – are interconnected. This implies that if one factor is affected negatively, it will automatically affect the others as well.
Therefore, it is society’s responsibility to ensure that individuals across all age groups remain connected through various programs.
1. John T. Cacippo and Louise C. Hawkley 2003,’Social Isolation and Health, with an emphasis on underlying Mechanisms’ Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Vol 46, number 3 supplement (summer 2003): S39-S52)
2. Heather M. Arthur, Phd, RN, NFESC,’Depression 2006 , Isolation, Social Support and Cardiovascular Disease in older Adults’ Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, Vol. 21 No. 55, pp S2-S7
3. Social Inclusion as a determinant of mental Health and wellbeing, Mental Health and Wellbeing Unit’ VicHealth
Social isolation can have deadly consequences, as explained in the articles “Social Isolation Kills, But How and Why?” (Editorial Comment, Psychosomatic Medicine 63:273-274, 2001), “Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation and Health among Older Adults” (Erin York Cornwell and Linda J Waite, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2009, vol. 50 (March):31-48), and “Social Isolation, Psychological Health, and Protective Factors in Adolescence” (Jennifer A. Hall-Lande, Marla E. Eisenberg, Sandra L. Christenson, and Dianne Neumark – Sztainer, Adolescence, vol. 42, No. 166, Summer 2007).