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More than half of Canadians feel lonely, isolated during coronavirus pandemic: Ipsos poll

54% of Canadians feel lonely, isolated during the coronavirus outbreak
WATCH: Fifty-four per cent of Canadians feel lonely and isolated during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many Canadians have been at home for weeks practising isolation and physical distancing as much as possible in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Now people are starting to feel the full effects of these practices: 54 per cent of Canadians feel lonely or isolated, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Global News.

This is according to data collected from 1,006 Canadians ages 18 and above via an online survey.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Are Canadians feeling lonely in self-isolation?
Coronavirus outbreak: Are Canadians feeling lonely in self-isolation?

Feelings of isolation were most significant among people between the ages of 18 and 34 (68 per cent).

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However, people between the ages of 35 and 54 (58 per cent) and people older than 55 (40 per cent) also reported feeling this way.

If you’re someone who has felt lonely in the last few weeks, you’re not alone. These feelings are completely normal, according to registered psychologist Melanie Badali.

“Right now, a lot of people are feeling lonely due to [the] COVID-19 outbreak. Take steps to maintain social connections but also recognize it’s ‘normal’ to feel lonely right now,” she said.

“But right now, many people are feeling lonely, just as many people are experiencing anxiety, grief, frustration, sadness and irritability.”

However, if you have feelings of loneliness and isolation that persist beyond the end of the outbreak, said Badali, then it’s worth seeking professional help.

Coronavirus outbreak: The life-and-death decisions doctors face
Coronavirus outbreak: The life-and-death decisions doctors face

Loneliness and mental health

Loneliness has been shown to have an effect on a person’s physical and mental health.

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“There is some research linking loneliness with adverse health consequences: increased levels of stress, depression, and anxiety have been reported, [and] social isolation has also been linked to poorer quality sleep,” Badali said.
“There are also some links to problems with cognitive functioning … [as well as] poorer cardiovascular function and immune system functioning.”

READ MORE: Bedridden for days, young Canadians with COVID-19 say illness is ‘no joke’

However, there is an important difference between temporary or reactive loneliness and chronic loneliness, said Badali.

“During life transitions — such as the changes to daily life people are experiencing due to the coronavirus outbreak, plus physical distancing and isolation recommendations — it makes sense that some people are feeling lonely,” she said.

“If you don’t have sufficient resources (these can be emotional, mental and financial) and don’t have social connections that can provide these resources, stress and chronic loneliness can set in.”

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However, if the feelings of loneliness and isolation lift once the outbreak is over, there is likely little need to worry about the long-term impacts.

Psychologist on social challenge of physical distancing and addressing loneliness
Psychologist on social challenge of physical distancing and addressing loneliness

Prof. Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University’s psychology and neuroscience program, who has previously done studies on the topic, says studies show the key to combating loneliness is keeping these relationships as we age.

She says not only this, but true social relationships mean making time for people face to face and spending less time engaging with them on social media.

“Most of the evidence we found linked health outcome [to] close relationships, typically in which there is a degree in trust, support and positivity,” she previously told Global News. “These aren’t just people that you barely know.”

Optimism about the future

The good news: most Canadians believe life will return to normal once the spread of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, in Canada is contained.

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Sixty-five per cent of Canadians said they’re confident things like work, school and social life will return to the way things were before the pandemic, according to the survey.

One in three Canadians (35 per cent) disagree with this notion, instead believing that the post-coronavirus world will be very different from life before this crisis took hold.

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According to the data, men (69 per cent) are more likely than women (60 per cent) to believe that things will return to normal.

Young people are also more likely to be optimistic in this regard: 72 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most likely to believe things will return to normal, followed by those between the ages of 35 and 54 (63 per cent) and then those older than 55 (60 per cent).

The role of technology

Being alone is not synonymous with loneliness, said Badali.

“Loneliness is about people’s levels of satisfaction with their connectedness or their perceived social isolation,” she said.

“It’s possible to be physically isolated right now and not feel lonely.”

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Luckily, technology is an easy way to maintain social connections — and most Canadians (93 per cent) say they’re using phones, computers and other tech as a way to stay close with family and friends during this time.

Changing advice on non-medical masks and COVID-19 protection from B.C. health officials
Changing advice on non-medical masks and COVID-19 protection from B.C. health officials

According to the survey, this is true of all age groups, with no significant deviation across generations.

It makes sense that humans are finding new ways to connect.

“Humans are social animals,” Badali said. “Being connected to others is important for both well-being and survival.”

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As the outbreak continues, Badali recommends that people stay as socially connected as possible.

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“Social isolation is different than physical isolation,” she said.

“Now, more than ever before in our history, we can connect to other people through verbal and nonverbal communication channels in ways that do not require physical contact or proximity.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.”

This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 1,006 Canadians conducted between April 3 and 7. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

— With files from Global News’ Laura Hensley

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca