The Impact of Social Isolation

Connie Layne video chats with her husband, David Layne, as he receives dialysis treatment
Photo credit USA Today Images

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Social distancing, and in many cases social isolation, is having a profound impact on Western New Yorkers as guidelines for stopping the spread of Coronavirus carry on.

“I think we’re seeing it already,” said Dr. Mike Cummings, Vice Chair of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo when asked about the impacts of not being able to see close loved ones for long periods of time.

Cummings cited studies on social isolation that showed in addition to an emotional impact, being separated from people can take a physical toll as well.

Though people have spent the last month becoming accustomed to online meetups, the shared experiences on a screen don’t have the same impact on people as actual physical contact.

“There’s a huge difference,” Cummings said. “Even from the moment of birth, this is why we have volunteers sit in NICUs and hold babies when their parents aren’t able to. That physical connection is part of our genetics and our makeup.”

Cummings said he was especially concerned about people who may have already been somewhat isolated before the social distancing measures were put into place such as the elderly and immigrant community. Efforts should be made to reach out to those people in a socially distant way.