How Does Social Isolation Affect Your Health?

A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them.  The granddaughter puts her hand up to the glass, the grandfather and grandmother doing the same.  A small connection in a time of separation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020, much of the focus of the pandemic has been placed on social distancing to limit the spread of the virus. While care needs to be taken, especially for the vulnerable and people with comorbidities, we also need to understand the long-term effects of social isolation on overall health.

The truth is that loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increase in the risk of many diseases. These public health risks pose as much of a threat as COVID – putting people at risk of other severe medical conditions. The concern is more significant for older adults who are more likely to live alone and experience chronic illness.

Social Isolation and the Brain

How connected (or lonely) a person feels can impact chemical processes within the body – starting with the brain. These positive or negative impacts can result in a domino-effect and the development of serious health conditions.

Chemical compounds affected by loneliness include:

  • Myocytes: White blood cells that play an essential part in immune health by fighting infections.
  • C-Reactive Protein (CRP): A protein that is produced in the liver and affects inflammation levels in the body.
  • Interleukin 6 (IL-6): An important anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory protein, depending on the levels of IL-6 that are occurring.
  • Immunoglobulin (IgG): A critical antibody that functions to decrease viral and antiviral infections.
  • Interferon: A response that increases antiviral defenses when a virus is present in the body.

There are countless things happening in your body to protect your health each day. When the overall balance is affected by isolation, loneliness and other factors, it can take a toll on overall health.


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How Loneliness and Isolation Affect Health

It’s challenging to get a clear understanding of the exact impact of loneliness and isolation on a person’s health. But evidence shows that these health risks might be connected with social isolation:

  • Premature Death: Being socially isolated increases the risk of premature death from all causes and could be comparable to the risks that come from physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking. Recently, a researcher compared the dangers of poor social connection with having an alcohol use disorder or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • Mental Health: Poor social connection has an undeniable impact on mental health, often leading to higher anxiety, depression, and suicide in people of all ages.
  • Dementia: When a person lacks in social interaction, then it increases the risk of dementia.
  • Heart Disease and Stroke: A person’s risk of stroke and heart disease goes up when they have poor social relationships. This loneliness and isolation can increase the risk of stroke by 32% and the risk of heart disease by 29%.

When personal relationships and connections are lost, it takes an immeasurable toll on many body functions. Hormone levels change, stress can increase, and the overall balance of a person’s health is affected – which has a domino effect on chronic illness and more.

Combatting Social Isolation

If you want to maintain good health for yourself and your loved ones, it starts with the small efforts needed to build connections and relationships. While in-person interactions are always optimal, you can also look for ways to reduce social isolation using technology. For example, be proactive about calling family and friends regularly, or look for times when you can schedule and share a conversation through video conferencing.

At Back On Track 2 Wellness, we take a holistic approach using our six pillars of lifestyle medicine – including healthy relationships. Schedule a consultation to learn more about how to create improved balance and optimal wellness in your life: (916) 782-3141.

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.


Dr. Todd W. Bunning, DC, PC

Dr. Todd W. Bunning’s chiropractic and functional medicine services reach far beyond the local Roseville area, with webcam consultations available for patients in any location. With 17 years of Private Practice experience, Dr. Todd continues to focus on the individual: science-based methods to address whole-body health factors.

Dr. Todd’s education didn’t stop when he graduated from Life West Chiropractic College in 2003. Today, he’s continuing to receive training and is chipping away on numerous post-graduate degree programs. This unique blend of clinical health investigation and Lifestyle Medicine application helps people of all ages find the underlying factors that result in chronic disease.

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