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Description: How long could you live without air? How long without food? How long without companionship (social contact with someone you know)? Minutes, days, months? As we head in to what may be the worst weeks of Covid-19 impacts and lockdowns that stand between us and vaccine driven relief (and winter here in the Northern hemisphere) it is a good idea (perhaps an essential idea) to think a bit about loneliness and companionship or the loss of close connections with the people we know and care about. Think for a minute about how big a deal this is or could be for many and think too about what we might do about it. Does any social contact help or is it important that the contact be with particular people or linked to particular kinds of relationships? Once you have your thoughts/hypotheses in order have a read through the linked article that talks about what Psychological research has to say on these matters.

Source: Combatting an Epidemic of Loneliness, Emily Sohn, The New York Times.

Date: December 18, 2020

Photo Credit: Image by iXimus from Pixabay

Article Link:

Given how long the pandemic has been affecting our social connection options it is rather amazing that things are not worse. It is certainly NOT the case that most of us can do without social contact, clearly it is as deeply wired important to us as food. It is also matters who that contact is with. A simple fix such as Jimmy Kimmel’s Ten Hours of People Touching on YouTube may be better than a video of a Christmas fire when it comes to assuaging loneliness, but the research seems to clearly indicate that it is contact with people we care about that matters. The social media savvy of younger generations may be an aspect of resilience against loneliness though perhaps only if it used to stay connected with those with home one already has a close relationship (some research suggests that lonely people spend MORE time on social media – a correlational puzzle). There is a lot one can draw upon in the linked article as, like a LOT of our pandemic related experiences, it is build within aspects of our social and cognitive functioning and experience to which we do not typically pay much if any conscious attention. So, reflect on what the article passes along and on how it could be applied to your own experience and come up with a plan or two. We are almost through the pandemic, but this last bit will certainly challenge our challenged social resources so connect with friends and resolve to be resilient!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How long can a typical person survive without contact with close others (companionship)?
  2. How are loneliness and hunger related?
  3. Zoom, social media and other forms of virtual contact CAN provide fixes for loneliness but what sorts of things should we thin k about or try to do with these tools to ensure they contribute to resilience rather than to more loneliness?

References (Read Further):

Tomova, L., Wang, K., Thompson, T., Matthews, G., Takahashi, A., Tye, K., & Saxe, R. (2020). The need to connect: Acute social isolation causes neural craving responses similar to hunger. bioRxiv. Link

Riters, L. V., Kelm-Nelson, C. A., & Spool, J. A. (2019). Why do birds flock? A role for opioids in the reinforcement of gregarious social interactions. Frontiers in Physiology, 10, 421. Link

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine, 7(7), e1000316. Link

Smith, T. W., Ruiz, J. M., & Uchino, B. N. (2004). Mental activation of supportive ties, hostility, and cardiovascular reactivity to laboratory stress in young men and women. Health Psychology, 23(5), 476. Link

Tarr, B., Launay, J., & Dunbar, R. I. (2014). Music and social bonding:“self-other” merging and neurohormonal mechanisms. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1096. Link

American Psychological Association (2020) Stress in America 2020 Survey Signals a Growing National Mental Health Crisis. Link

Nowland, R., Necka, E. A., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2018). Loneliness and social internet use: pathways to reconnection in a digital world?. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(1), 70-87. Link