Four in 10 Americans are lonelier now than ever before — as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.
A survey of 1,055 Americans asked respondents to think about how the outbreak is affecting them and revealed it's caused loneliness to hit new heights for 44% of those surveyed.
And these feelings of loneliness were found to be part of a wider effect: If social distancing and quarantining continues, a fifth of respondents (19%) said it will have major implications for their mental health.
Commissioned by University of Phoenix, the survey found Americans have a wide variety of concerns at the current moment, with health — mental and physical — first on the list.
Results revealed respondents' top concern to be their loved one's health (71%), followed by their own (61%).
Other respondents were worried about experiencing increased anxiety (41%) and not being able to pay bills (33%) as a result of the pandemic.
Three in 10 were concerned about missing out on celebrating milestones, while 27% were worried about feeling prolonged loneliness or depression.
With so much unpredictability, 68% said they feel like everything is out of their control — and 53% of respondents wish they had tips on how to better take care of their mental health during this time.
But the survey, conducted by the Harris Poll, found some respondents are taking steps in the right direction.
To maintain — or improve — their mental health, six in 10 have checked in with a loved one, while 35% are exercising more.
Three in 10 recognize the importance of self-care while staying informed and are therefore limiting their news consumption.
Other steps respondents are taking for their mental health include planning for a post-pandemic future (30%) and performing acts of kindness for others (29%).
"While many people only associate negative feelings with social distancing, there can be several benefits embedded in such opportunities," said Dr. Dean Aslinia, counseling department chair, University of Phoenix.
"Reach out to an old friend, but instead of texting or emailing, make a phone call or use video chat to build a more meaningful connection.
Build activity in your day by trying something new or setting a small goal for yourself.
Start a new fun project or challenge that you can share with friends or loved ones.
Engaging in activities and interacting with people that uplift you is important for maintaining mental health in uncertain times." But not only is mental health important right now, so is physical health.
In more good news, 59% of respondents report "always" following the social distancing guidelines, while 31% are following them most of the time.
Almost half (47%) of those surveyed believe social distancing guidelines will continue to be in place between 2-3 months while 27% believe it'll be 4 months or longer.
"Feelings of loneliness are not solely due to isolation or social distancing," said Dr. Aslinia.
"Some of the challenge is that our connections are not emotionally fulfilling and are increasingly less personal, genuine, and may be void of real empathy.
Technology overuse, impersonal interactions and choosing to interact with people that are not healthy for us all lead to loneliness.
If something good can come from this pandemic, we can hopefully recognize the need for meaningful contact."
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