According to new research from the Australian National University, neighborhood interactions and social connections safeguarded against loneliness, sadness, and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic (ANU).
The results come from a three-wave, nationally representative, longitudinal survey of more than 3,000 people that will be done between May and November 2020.
Lead author Dr. James O’Donnell said, “People who have favorable evaluations of their local social situations are substantially less likely to report feelings of despair, anxiety, and loneliness.”
“Neighborhood cohesiveness is a critical social glue that keeps us connected and supports our well-being in both normal and emergency situations. Good neighbors are essential for everyone. It is beneficial to your health. “
The study, which looked at the period leading up to and including the second COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, provided compelling data about the mental health consequences of lockdowns.
“The relationship between the neighborhood environment was much stronger during the second lockdown in Melbourne, one of the world’s longest and harshest lockdowns, showing the protective impacts of neighborhoods were increased during lockdown,” Dr. O’Donnell added.
According to the findings, depression levels in Melbourne soared by 22% on average during the second lockdown, while loneliness levels increased by 4%.
According to the study, people who thought their neighborhoods were more cohesive were less likely to have these unfavorable mental health effects. “Our findings demonstrate that social ties protect against loneliness, melancholy, and anxiety, particularly during lockdowns,” stated Dr. O’Donnell.
“In a crisis like COVID-19, close-knit neighborhoods and neighbors who trust one another, get along well, and aid one another can provide a tremendously vital source of social and psychological support.”
Given the way lockdowns restrict physical interactions with friends, coworkers, and larger social networks and keep individuals at home, said co-author Professor Kate Reynolds, “neighborhoods could play an even more prominent social support function.”
These findings, say the researchers, are important because they show how governments and communities can better deal with the pandemic.
Professor Reynolds stated, “Investing in the social infrastructure of local communities and the country’s social cohesion helps safeguard people’s social, physical, and psychological wellness both in everyday life and during the crises we encounter.”
The author says that addressing social cohesion now could be very important for mental health during COVID-19 and for years to come.