Photo: Getty Images
It’s an indicator of delayed or altered childhood development. It has links to mortality, sickness or illnesses in a particular segment of the population. It has been shown to increase the growth of cancer in mice. And a simple change of perspective can make a world of difference to those people caught up in the cycle – isolation and mental illness.
If a child is observed not interacting with classmates, huddling in a corner away from everyone, it is often recommended that the child be evaluated for some form of mental illness or disorder. The segments of the population most prone to social isolation are those with mental illnesses and older women. A 2007 study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine has shown that socially isolated people experience 50 percent less production of a brain hormone responsible for reducing reactions to stress, resulting in anxiety and aggression. A 2009 study by the University of Chicago observed an isolated group of mice with breast cancer and another group of mice that were kept together and found that the isolated mice developed larger breast cancer tumors, as well as a disrupted stress hormone response. This particular study was conducted to investigate “how the environment affects human susceptibility to other chronic diseases such as central obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc” (Suzanne D. Conzen, MD) (www.allacademic.com).
For decades people have – perhaps without realizing it – known that removing people from the ability or opportunity for social interaction would be viewed and processed by the body as an act of punishment, hence solitary confinement in prisons and the ultimate purpose behind time out, or the more old fashioned name of “standing in the corner.”
What is Social Isolation?
Being connected with people promotes health-enhancing behaviors, increases a person’s sense of control and self-esteem, increases immune function, and reduces cardiovascular and neuroendocrine damage related to exposure to stress.