In order to be holistically healthy and balanced, social health is an important part of the equation. We take care of our physical health through our diet, exercise and lifestyle. In the same way, we foster good social health through our connections and relationships with others. When social isolation occurs, it can be harmful to overall social and mental health. Social isolation is defined as a lack of contact, totally or partially, with society. It’s different from loneliness in that it normally lasts for long periods of time. With the onset of social distancing guidelines, it’s important to recognize the root causes of social isolation and address them when they start to show up. 

Mental Health Issues

Social isolation is a common sign of various mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more. Though the isolation is voluntary on the part of the sufferer, it can be a sign of something deeper. Sometimes it starts with less talk time to friends and family. Then, it can quickly spiral to remaining isolated at home and having little to no social interaction. This is especially detrimental if the person lives alone. If a loved one is beginning to socially isolate, the cause might be a problem with mental health. Reaching out is the first step to let them know you’re here for them. 

Stress

Sometimes, when a person is spreading themselves thin between commitments, there’s little time left to prioritize social health. When stress piles up, a natural reaction can be to withdraw from the extras, like making an effort to spend time with friends. This is normal and healthy for a short period of time, like during a heavy week at work or a finals week at college. But if it continues for a while, stress can be a cause of prolonged social isolation. It’s important to make time to decompress and relax throughout these times. You might not think you have the time, but it’s crucial for long term wellness.

Social Anxiety and Introversion 

Some people, especially introverts, genuinely enjoy spending time by themselves. This is sometimes, but not always, coupled with social anxiety. These factors can lead to someone spending most of their time alone, even if they think this is what makes them happy. But in the long run, social interaction and forming connections is essential for social health, even if it’s more uncomfortable than being alone for socially isolated people. 

These are a few of the root causes of social isolation. Make an effort to check on those in your life that you haven’t heard from in a while. A bout of social isolation might be a sign of something more serious. Likewise, if you’re in one of those times yourself, think about your long-term social and mental well being. It might be uncomfortable now, but schedule time to connect with loved ones and friends. It will help you make great strides in your emotional wellness. That’s why BetterYou counts talk time toward your health goals. When you schedule that weekly call with a friend or Houseparty call with your extended family, you feel less isolated and more connected to what matters to you.