The Impact of Social Distancing on our Immune Systems

  • Friday, July 10, 2020

Professor Fulvio D'Acquisto of the Department of Life Sciences has published an article reviewing the potential impact of social isolation on our cardiovascular and immune systems.

Image - The Impact of Social Distancing on our Immune Systems

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in thousands of people having to live alone in social isolation. Professor D'Acquisto’s study review suggests that while social distancing minimises the spread of COVID-19, it may have long-term negative effects on our cardiovascular and immune systems.

The immune system continually reacts and adapts to its surroundings to offer us the most protection. As professor D’Acquisto says: “the immune system is the mirror of our experiences and feelings”.

Previous studies have investigated how loneliness and isolation impacts our immune system and overall health. These investigations suggest, when alone, your whole body - including your immune system and stress hormones - move into a state of alert to protect you from potential attacks. We are social creatures, and when surrounded by company we’re protected by members of our group. When alone, we’re much more vulnerable if we become unwell.

In a study involving six healthy men living in confinement for 520 days to simulate a mission to Mars, researchers have noted a significant increase in the antiviral response and a basal state of inflammation. However, these seemingly positive effects of social isolation can have negative long-term consequences, with higher levels of inflammation being a key driver for cardiovascular disease.

Professor D'Acquisto is a Professor of Immunology, specialising in the link between emotions, immunity, and inflammation. He added “The impact of COVID-19 on health is far from being fully appreciated. The research in this field should be as comprehensive and interdisciplinary as possible as this is the only way we can truly appreciate how it has changed us in both body and mind”.

The full article can be read here

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