Social Isolation And Chronic Illness: A Look At Social Isolation, Loneliness And Heart Failure
Most people don’t want to be alone, yet circumstances can force them to withdraw from social interactions. As a natural consequence of various factors, it can be easier for some to live a life that lacks special social bonds. Read on to find out how social isolation affects your health.
What is Social Isolation?
Spending time alone is an excellent way to refocus your energy and prioritise what matters most. However, there are times when social connections can help prevent harmful health effects on your heart and brain. Social isolation is an extreme state of detachment from social contact triggered by different factors.
The factors contributing to social isolation can make forming and maintaining social connections challenging. As a result, it can have unfavourable effects on your mental and physical health. It’s common for most people to misunderstand the difference between social isolation and loneliness.
Is it Loneliness or Social Isolation?
Long-term isolation can lead to loneliness; however, you can still have a robust social network and feel lonely. Loneliness is based on negative feelings you may experience when your social connections don’t meet your needs. Learning to differentiate between the two is crucial because research suggests that social isolation can damage overall wellbeing.
Signs of Social Isolation
Being in solitude has become more common as the world shifts towards remote jobs. Sometimes, it can be challenging to determine if someone is isolated. These are general signs you should consider:
- Lack of community participation.
- Avoiding close contact with friends or family.
- Poor quality of overall relationships.
- Feeling like an outsider.
- Being alone all the time.
What Factors Contribute to Social Isolation?
Various circumstances can lead to social isolation. It can be something you choose, or you can be isolated because of situations beyond your control. In most cases, these are factors that can be of concern:
Living in a remote area or working from home can lead to isolation from everyday life. You can end up losing a great deal of recommended face-to-face contact. Most importantly, it can make you feel disconnected from your loved ones and make it difficult to form robust circle connections.
Being isolated from friends and family can impact almost every aspect of your mental health. For instance, it can make you vulnerable to the decreased ability to regulate most things, such as stress, sleep and eating. Additionally, you can experience more suicidal thoughts with a higher likelihood of suicidal attempts.
Most people who are physically impaired and require assistance to navigate social environments have a higher risk of becoming socially isolated. Spaces aren’t welcoming and create far-reaching obstacles for anyone who has any degree of physical impairment. This can result in being excluded from interacting with others and increase the risk of mental health concerns and poor physical health.
Being employed is a great way to improve your social skills. If you commute to work, you can interact with your colleagues more than you spend time with your loved ones. Unemployment deprives you of the benefits of building long-lasting relationships with like-minded people, which can negatively impact your overall wellbeing.
Losing Loved Ones
Losing loved ones can include detaching from your friends and family due to extreme family breakdowns that include unwelcomed behaviours and mental health issues. The effects of loss can trigger intense emotions that can lead to social isolation. Even though the consequences of losing loved ones can differ from person to person, they can still include a higher risk of health concerns such as cardiovascular diseases, depression, and cognitive decline.
How Does Social Isolation Affect Your Health?
Research suggests that social isolation can have severe consequences for mental and physical health. It can impact the care you put into taking care of yourself, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining a balanced diet. It can make you vulnerable to stress and inflammation-causing, increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases.
Additionally, prolonged isolation has been linked to:
- Impaired immune health.
- Reduced sleep quality.
- Heart disease.
- Emotional distress.
Studies further show that social isolation is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease that can lead to heart failure. People who live alone and are disconnected from close friends and family have an increased risk of up to 20% of being hospitalised from heart-related complications.
Social networks can help improve your health and provide numerous benefits that enhance your quality of life. If you feel disconnected from your loved ones, feeling vulnerable and needing someone to talk to is normal. When you sign up with Affinity Health, you can reduce the risks of social isolation by connecting to a Mental Health professional through your unlimited, managed Telehealth Consulting Benefit.