Social isolation leads to lonely holiday season

Canadians more lonely than ever this holiday season due to COVID-19


By Henri B Ngimbis

Since the eruption of COVID-19 in Jan. 2020 in B.C., measures such as gathering restriction and social isolation have made it harder for students to be social at that period of the year when Canadians often celebrate with family, according to one expert.

Lidia Kemeny, a director for The Vancouver Foundation, a community-focused non-profit said social isolation as a result of COVID-19 comes with consequences and future potential struggles of being able to interact with people.

“People are losing the skills and the capacity on how to connect to each other,” said Kemeny.

“This is a learned behaviour, when we don’t see a model and when we don’t practice it frequently, we lose it,” said Kemeny, who was part of the “Connect & Engage” report done by Vancouver Foundation in 2017.

The report focuses on community and social trends in Vancouver, including data on isolation and loneliness and how people interact within their community.  

Social skills lost in isolation

“There are social and emotional skills like communication, resilience and empathy, those capabilities are very important for working and living in complex environments,” said Kemeny.

The 2017 report found that 30% of people aged 18-24 reported feeling lonely “often” or “almost always”, compared to the average loneliness rate of 14% amongst all Vancouver residents.

In a more recent study conducted by Angus Reid Institute, a Canadian non-profit research foundation, 47% of Canadians aged 18-34 reported feeling “very isolated” in 2020, compared to 27% in 2019.

Raine Atkinson, a UBCO Psychology student said she feels like the current pandemic is a unique situation that is affecting young people’s ability to be social.

“The world has witnessed myriads of tragedies,” Atkinson said. “But there have always been some safe areas where young people could meet and share social activities such as dance, sports, and parties. That is not the case with COVID-19, which is leading humanity beyond all imagination,” Atkinson continued.

She said she feels that people are socially isolated, and they fear to travel.

“I cannot travel to visit my biological family on the coast,” Atkinson said. “It seems to me that social isolation will cause people to develop anxiety which will lower ability to work.”

Marwan Zeid, who is an international graduate student in management at UBC said that he has not visited his family in Iran for years because of exams and that many international students were in the same situation.

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