Because of the areas I work in I feel compelled to start / continue a discussion about the importance of social engagement in maintaining our mental health, which creates a catalyst for our physical health — as we’ll see.
I’ll state ahead of time that this post isn’t about being pro / anti vaccine ( 1, 2), it’s about creating context and seeing beyond what we’re being spoon-fed in order to make the best decisions we can — for ourselves; which inevitably impact the whole.
In the past 4 months (at the time of original publication) there have been almost 440k confirmed COVID-related deaths in the United States ( 3). In 2019 one person in the United States killed themselves every 11 minutes — to the tune of about 26 / 100,000 people. But, those were completed suicides; 1.2 million suicides were attempted in 2018 — that’s one every 26 seconds ( 4). This is prior to various implementations of isolation, social distancing, unemployment, food supply fragility, and varieties of infections disease and social discord that were rife in 2020.
In January of this year, The Journal of Health Psychology wrote ( 5):
“ The transformation that COVID-19 has brought upon the world is unparalleled. The impact on mental health is equally unprecedented and yet unexplored in depth. An online-based survey was administered to 413 community-based adults during COVID-19 confinement to explore psychological impact and identify high risk profiles. Young females concerned about the future, expressing high COVID-related distress, already following psychological therapy and suffering from pre-existing chronic conditions, were those at highest risk of psychological impact due to the COVID-19 situation.”
The CDC has acknowledged that a multitude of chronic diseases increase the risk of severe COVID outcomes; among them: type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity, severe obesity, and immune compromise ( 6). Another publication, again in the January 2021 edition of The Journal of Health Psychology ( 7), noted the impact of social support in diabetes treatment:
“Diabetes patients experience significant distress. Improving health-related quality of life (HRQoL) is cardinal in the management of all chronic health conditions. We investigated the moderating role of social support (SS) in teh relationship between diabetes distress (DD) and HRQoL. Three hundred and ninety-six type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients (M age=57.1 years) completed measures of relevant variables. Results showed that SS moderated DD-HRQoL association. Our findings provide a guide on extent of support for T2DM management behaviors that may be helpful in ameliorating impacts of stress on patients’ health.”
Yet another publication in the same journal ( 8) suggested that:
“Multilevel models indicated that enjoying nature with others tended to predict affect at the within-person level, while enjoying nature alone did not. However, enjoying nature alone did predict affect at the between-person level. Lastly, many of these associations remained, even while controlling for exercise and social interaction.”
This is huge. This means that, even without the hormone and endorphin boosting effects of exercise, simply being exposed to nature and other people improves our mood and treatment of chronic disease. I didn’t intend for this to be a COVID post as much as I’m hoping it will illustrate the vivid complexity of our lives when it come to our health — be that in all of it’s overlapping varieties.
There is no action without a consequence.