Problem or purpose: Social isolation involves an individuals’ social network (i.e., quantity, quality, and structure) and their appraisal of relationships (Wang et al., 2017). Social Isolation has been associated with an increase in mortality (Pantell et al., 2013) and a vulnerability for various mental-health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.; Achterbergh et al., 2020; Ma et al., 2020), and decrease in cardiovascular health (Knox & Uvnas-Moberg, 1998). Although the psychological and physiological effects of social isolation have been known for some time, there is less known about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its effects on social isolation. Due to isolation and physical distancing recommendations during the pandemic, we are expecting there to be an increase in social isolation during the pandemic compared to previously collected data from a similar pre-pandemic survey. Religious affiliation often involves greater social involvement, while simultaneously being associated with an increase in a sense of belonging (Rote, Hill, & Ellison, 2013), and a decrease in negative emotions (Rosemarin, Pargament, & Mahoney, 2009). An additional goal of this study was to examine the association between religion affiliation and social isolation during COVID-19.
Procedure: We measured social isolation with two items from the Lubben Social Network Scale (LSNS-6) and one measure of relationship satisfaction. Telephone surveys were used to collect data from a sample of adult Minnesotans generated through random digit dialing. Preliminary data includes surveys from 216 participants (51% women, 74% white, age mean = 53.01 years, SD = 18.23).
Results: Preliminary analyses suggest that the prevalence of social isolation has increased since our last survey that measured that topic. In 2021, 17% of our sample was at risk for social isolation (i.e., had 2 or fewer people they could call on for help), compared to 6% of our sample in 2018. There was a marginally significant relationship between social isolation and mental health in 2021, chi-square = 3.64, p = .06, such that more participants at risk for social isolation reported having a diagnosable mental health condition than those who were not at risk for isolation. Preliminary analyses did not find an association between social isolation and religious affiliation, chi-square = .06, p = .80.
Conclusions and implications: Results suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk for social isolation, and that social isolation continues to be associated with poorer mental health, highlighting the importance of maintaining meaningful social contact through difficult times.
Tholkes, Hunter; Hemmesch, Amanda; Cottrill, James; Finan, Ann; and Zerbib, Sandrine, "Social Isolation, Religious Affiliation, and Mental Health in Adult Minnesotans" (2022). Psychology Faculty Presentations and Posters. 2.