Institute of Mental Health1
Loneliness is a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships. Social connectedness reflects the individual’s perception of their relationship with society. Social distancing measures (SDM) disrupts routine social events and increase social isolation. This study explores how SDM in the workplace affects MHP’s perceived social connectedness (SC) and loneliness, and coping strategies used to mitigate the impact of SDM.
Forty-eight MHPs were surveyed in July-October 2020 (T1), during strict SDM, and January-March 2021 (T2), when SDM relaxed. Participants completed the UCLA Loneliness Scale Revised and SC Scale Revised. Coping methods were reported by going through a checklist and listing any methods not mentioned.
Overall, MHPs reported being more socially connected in T1 than T2, t(47)=2.39,p<.05. However, they also felt lonelier in T1 than T2, t(47)=4.86,p<.001.
Further analysis revealed that, in T1, individuals who did not have video lunches tend to feel lonelier, t(46)=3.55,p=.001, and individuals who cooked tend to feel less socially connected, t(46)=3.16,p=.003 .
For T2, increased SC is associated with not texting, t(46)=2.12,p=.04, home exercise, t(46)=-2.08,p=.043, and not using online video streaming platforms, t(46)=3.17,p=.003.
Differences in loneliness and SC between time points could be due to SDM in T1 lowering the quality of social relationships, causing increased loneliness, but the unique situation of coping with strict SDM caused participants feel more SC. When SDM relaxed, quality of social relationships increased while individuals’ situations varied more causing decreased loneliness and decreased SC. The impact of coping activities on loneliness and SC will be further discussed.