Social activity promotes resilience against loneliness in depressed individuals: a study over 14-days of physical isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

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Abstract

Loneliness is a subjectively perceived state of social isolation that is associated with negative emotional, cognitive, and physical health outcomes. Physical distancing and shelter-in-place public health responses designed to curb COVID-19 transmission has led to concerns over elevated risk of loneliness. Given that physical isolation does not necessitate social isolation in the age of digital communication, this study investigated the relationship between the frequency of social interaction and loneliness over a two-week period in people engaging in physical distancing and examined whether this relationship was moderated by physical isolation level, age, or depression. A self-selected sample of N = 469 individuals across Australia who were engaged in physically distanced living completed daily surveys for 14-days during April to June of 2020. Multilevel modelling showed that more frequent social interaction with close, but not intermediate or distant contacts, was uniquely associated with lower loneliness. In addition, being younger, more depressed, more anxious, or having a mental health condition diagnosis (past or present) were also independently associated with higher loneliness. Critically, depression was the only significant moderator of the relationship between social interaction and loneliness over time, where more frequent social interaction with close contacts buffered against loneliness over time in high depression individuals only. The findings suggest that encouraging social activity with close contacts may promote resilience against loneliness in individuals with elevated depression symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7155
Pages (from-to)7155
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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