Social Isolation Takes a Toll

Skater alone at Christmas time, NYC (photo by Andreas Komodromo via Flicker Creative Commons license)

20 December 2021

Social animals like honey bees, parrots and humans are biologically driven to live in groups. Honey bees are so highly social that individuals cannot live outside the group. African grey parrots can live alone but age faster if they do. In humans the National Institute on Aging explains:

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.


Since the COVID-19 pandemic began we humans have practiced social isolation on a large scale, especially during last year’s winter family holidays. For many it did not go well. Research published in February 2021 found that 40% of adults nationwide reported an increase in depression and anxiety, a four-fold increase compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Our isolation eased after vaccines made a dent in the pandemic in Spring 2021.

No masks needed in the wind outdoors. Kate St. John & Ramona Sahni at Schenley Park, 25 April 2021

However the vaccines cannot completely protect us from COVID’s Delta and Omicron variants, though vaccines do prevent serious illness and death (whew!). Yesterday the New York Times reported:

All [Covid] vaccines still seem to provide a significant degree of protection against serious illness from Omicron, which is the most crucial goal. But only the Pfizer and Moderna shots, when reinforced by a booster, appear to have initial success at stopping infections, and these vaccines are unavailable in most of the world.

The other shots — including those from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and vaccines manufactured in China and Russia — do little to nothing to stop the spread of Omicron, early research shows. And because most countries have built their inoculation programs around these vaccines, the gap could have a profound impact on the course of the pandemic.

New York Times, 19 Dec 2021: Most of the World’s Vaccines Likely Won’t Prevent Infection From Omicron

Because of Omicron some countries and some activities have shutdown again including all of the Netherlands, bars and restaurants in Britain, some U.S. colleges and Broadway shows.

At this point my husband and I are both wary and weary.

We are vaccinated and boosted with Moderna and are planning to visit relatives, all of whom are vaccinated, so we won’t be socially isolated this Christmas but we are wary that they or we might catch COVID anyway.

And we are weary of the isolation and the stress of the pandemic.

I don’t know about you but I certainly feel that I’ve aged since the carefree days of 2019.

Christmas tree ornaments (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(photos from Flickr, Ramona Sahni and Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the original)

6 thoughts on “Social Isolation Takes a Toll

  1. Thank you for doing a marvelous job of informing, entertaining, and helping to keep us connected to the world outside our windows especially through these difficult times. I greatly look forward to your blog every day. You are a true heroine.

  2. hi kate.
    it has been an extremely stressful year for me too. due to the isolation, and the uncertainty of everything (life, economic, when we can see family again), along with all the other usual life stressors, political issues etc. will the world finally get all the other countries vaccinated also, or are we sitting ducks for the next variant. hang in there. i like reading your posts.

  3. For me, every day is a roller coaster ride of optimism and pessimism. Hang in there and get outside is all I can tell myself and others.

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