Social Isolation Leads to Higher Death Rates than Smoking or High Blood Pressure

“A sad soul can kill you quicker than a germ” ~ John Steinbeck

Hundreds of millions of adults and children are now either in quarantine in their homes, or engaged in “essential” travel in the public sphere, while maintaining an unnatural distance from one another, because they have been told this is the best way to protect their individual and the public health from a deadly virus.

But what are the consequences of the social isolation caused by this mass social distancing experiment?

What Is Social Distancing and Social Isolation?
Social distancing, also known physical distancing, is defined as a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions taken to prevent the spread of presumably communicable diseases by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the frequency people come into close contact with each other.

Regardless of whether or not social distancing is actually effective in preventing disease transmission, it always results in some degree of social isolation, defined as disengagement from social ties, institutional connections, or community participation.

13 Studies Reveal How Social Distancing (i.e. Social Isolation) Can Increase Mortality
There is a growing body of scientific research demonstrating that social isolation has significant adverse health impacts on both the psychological and physiological health and well-being of individuals, as represented by the following 13 studies which show significant increases in mortality:

* Eng P, Rimm E, Fitzmaurice G, Kawachi I. Social ties and change in social ties in relation to subsequent total and cause-specific mortality and coronary heart disease incidence in men. Am J Epidemiol. 2002;155(8):700–709. [PubMed]

* Berkman L, Syme S. Social networks, host resistance, and mortality: a nine-year follow-up study of Alameda County residents. Am J Epidemiol. 1979;109(2):186–204. [PubMed]

* Schoenbach V, Kaplan B, Fredman L, Kleinbaum D. Social ties and mortality in Evans County, Georgia. Am J Epidemiol. 1986;123(4):577–591. [PubMed]

* House J, Robbins C, Metzner H. The association of social relationship and activities with mortality: prospective evidence from the Tecumseh Community Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1982;116(1):123–140. [PubMed]

* Forster L, Stoller E. The impact of social support on mortality: a seven-year follow-up of older men and women. J Appl Gerontol. 1992;11(2):173–186. [Google Scholar]

* Kawachi I, Ascherio A, Rimm E, Giovannucci E, Stampfer M, Willett W. A prospective study of social networks in relation to mortality and cardiovascular disease in men in the USA. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1996;50(3):245–251. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

* Yasuda N, Zimmerman S, Hawkes W, Fredman L, Hebel J, Magaziner J. Relation of social network characteristics to 5-year mortality among young-old versus old-old white women in an urban community. Am J Epidemiol. 1997;145(6):516–523. [PubMed]

* Zhang X, Norris S, Gregg E, Beckles G. Social support and mortality among older persons with diabetes. Diabetes Educ. 2007;33(2):273–281. [PubMed]

* Horsten M, Mittleman M, Wamala S, Schenck-Gustafsson K, Orth-Gomer K. Depressive symptoms and lack of social integration in relation to prognosis of CHD in middle-aged women: the Stockholm Female Coronary Risk Study. Eur Heart J. 2000;21(13):1072–1080. [PubMed]

* Berkman L, Melchior M, Chastang J, Niedhammer I, Leclerc A, Goldberg M. Social integration and mortality: a prospective study of French employees of Electricity of France-Gas of France. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;159(2):167–174. [PubMed]

* Giles L, Glonek G, Luszcz M, Andres G. Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005;59(7):574–579. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

* Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T, Layton B. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010;7(7):e1000316. [PubMed]

* Matthew Pantell, MD, Social Isolation: A Predictor of Mortality Comparable to Traditional Clinical Risk Factors 2013 Am J Public Health November. [PMC free article]

In the 13th study listed above titled, “Social Isolation: A Predictor of Mortality Comparable to Traditional Clinical Risk Factors,” researchers found that social isolation predicted mortality for both genders, and that social isolation was as strong a factor in their mortality risk as smoking, and even higher than having high blood pressure.

Recently, another article worth reading titled, “The Pandemic America Forgot About,” echoed these health concerns:

“Loneliness and social isolation have the same cardiovascular effects as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, but these factors also increase the risk of “all-cause morbidity,” in other words, dying from any cause. Loneliness increases the risk of developing dementia by 50% and stroke by 32% while increasing the morbidity risk of cancer by 25%.”

Social Isolation May Contribute To Increased Susceptibility to Infection
A study published in JAMA in 1997 titled, “Social Ties and Susceptibility to the Common Cold,” wherein the researchers evaluated the affect of a six-day quarantine on the susceptibility of healthy individuals exposed to two rhinoviruses linked to the common cold was found mediated by the level of social diversity present in their lives, i.e. ties to friends, family, work, and community, and found that “More diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to upper respiratory illness”:

~ Abstract ~

Objective: To examine the hypothesis that diverse ties to friends, family, work, and community are associated with increased host resistance to infection.

Design: After reporting the extent of participation in 12 types of social ties (eg, spouse, parent, friend, workmate, member of social group), subjects were given nasal drops containing 1 of 2 rhinoviruses and monitored for the development of a common cold.

Setting: Quarantine.

Participants: A total of 276 healthy volunteers, aged 18 to 55 years, neither seropositive for human immunodeficiency virus nor pregnant.

Outcome measures: Colds (illness in the presence of a verified infection), mucus production, mucociliary clearance function, and amount of viral replication.

Results: In response to both viruses, those with more types of social ties were less susceptible to common colds, produced less mucus, were more effective in ciliary clearance of their nasal passages, and shed less virus. These relationships were unaltered by statistical controls for prechallenge virus-specific antibody, virus type, age, sex, season, body mass index, education, and race. Susceptibility to colds decreased in a dose-response manner with increased diversity of the social network. There was an adjusted relative risk of 4.2 comparing persons with fewest (1 to 3) to those with most (6 or more) types of social ties. Although smoking, poor sleep quality, alcohol abstinence, low dietary intake of vitamin C, elevated catecholamine levels, and being i ntroverted were all associated with greater susceptibility to colds, they could only partially account for the relation between social network diversity and incidence of colds.

Conclusions: More diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to upper respiratory illness.

This study argues for voluntary and not mandatory social isolation and quarantining. It is likely that when imposed from the outside on the healthy, it furthers the feeling of powerless and isolation. When self-administered, for example by someone who is not feeling well, it could actually be considered a measure of self-empowerment and self-soothing.

Clearly, social isolation has profound adverse psychobiological consequences that are not being taken into account by governmental health authorities intent on convincing the public that COVID-19 is the only relevant thread to our health and well-being in times of mandatory, indefinite, and near universal quarantines.

When you consider, also, that social distancing has destroyed the ability of people to make a living, it should be acknowledged that there are strongly positive epidemiological associations between unemployment and a wide range of adverse health effects; a 2015 study found that men experience up to an 85% increased risk of all-cause mortality following losing their jobs. Moreover, a 2020 Lancet study on the “Psychobiological effects of quarantine and how to reduce it,” found that “most of the adverse effects come from the imposition of a restriction of liberty.” The study noted:

These effects, as measured by increased morbidity and mortality, are likely to exceed those attributed to the theoretical risks of COVID-19 exposure.

Social distancing and isolation have real, evidence-based harms that must be accounted for when it comes to calculating the risks and benefits of quarantining the entire country, and the subsequent psychological, biological and economic consequences that follow such actions.

Written for and Published by Green Med-Info ~ April 4, 2020

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