If you go to the gym every day, eat healthy and on time, but still find yourself low on energy, and often contract the common cold, then you need to ask yourself — when was the last time I went out and had fun?
A recent study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the lack of social connections was associated with vastly elevated health risks in specific life stages. It concluded that social isolation increased the risk of inflammation to the same extent as physical inactivity in adolescence, and that the effect social isolation had on hypertension exceeded that of other risk factors, such as diabetes in old age.
“Social isolation is a condition, wherein an individual withdraws socially and restricts interactions with others, for a period ranging from days to several weeks. At times, having some me time is important, but complete isolation can have a negative impact too,” says Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist.
As opposed to social isolation, interaction helps evolve the brain’s feedback mechanism. It also helps fine-tune intuition, and enables one to figure out what works and what does not.
“We are social beings. We need people. Social interactions are necessary for the brain to pick up various skills at the unconscious level. It’s the one thing that makes all the learning and doing, more relevant. It’s like a reality check,” says Harini Ramachandran, life coach.
The recommended amount of social interaction depends on an individual’s personality type, behavioural traits, mental conditioning, and characteristics. According to experts, social isolation can have far-reaching effects on people in different phases of their lives:
The elderly who are socially isolated, experience loneliness and helplessness. They have a higher risk of developing dementia and other mental disorders. It can also lead to an increase in blood pressure levels and other health issues. Further on, it leads to negative thinking and promotes insecurity. “Senior citizens, sometimes, come to the conclusion that their life is purposeless. They tend to withdraw, and hope for death,” says Ramachandran.
Adults and adolescents
“Social isolation leads youngsters to obsess over a trail of unwanted and self-sabotaging thoughts,” says Dagia. The brain tends to find examples of failure, hurt and resentment, and replays it from time to time. They look for ways to come out of it and vent, without caring about the outcome. Also, with the growing impact of social media, researchers have found that youngsters who are socially isolated, have a higher tendency to spend more time interacting online. This, in turn, affects their face-to-face interactions all the more.
Social isolation denies infants and kids the opportunity to learn from the world. The values they build and the beliefs they form are limited and restricted. The choices they make as they grow into adults get severely affected if they do not have the ability to learn from the outside world. Thus, it’s essential that children get proper care and attention at this age from family or secondary social groups. If any social interaction barriers are identified by the child, a social skill development programme or something similar, can aid long-term benefits.