The Danger of Social Isolation

This may not be surprising. Research presented recently at the American Psychological Council Annual Convention indicates that loneliness and social isolation may be a greater health hazard than obesity. Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, presented the findings of her research at the conference.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. “Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly.”

According to Holt-Lunstad, loneliness is a growing problem, with an increasing number of Americans, especially older Americans, experiencing social isolation.

Social isolation and ostracism is a problem as well for ex-felons, people re-entering society after a prison sentence, and registered sex offenders — who are often excluded from social and community activities by ill-conceived, knee-jerk, laws. These laws harm not just registered citizens, but their family members, who also face social ostracism.

Considering what is known about the negative effects of social isolation, can laws that effectively exclude people from the lives of their communities and, often, their own families be considered a public health issue?

Unless, and until, the laws change, how can formerly incarcerated people in general, and registered sex offenders specifically, become more socially engaged? Listen to a Solitary Nation podcast on this very subject.

In this unique episode of Solitary Nation, Matt Duhamel talks with Dr. Kipling Williams from Purdue University.  He is the nation’s leading authority on social ostracism and social rejection.  The conversation focuses on how rejection effects everyday people and especially the formally incarcerated.   Dr. Williams also offers tips for people with felony records on how they can reduce anxiety and pressure from social ostracism. 

This is an informative podcast episode not only for people who’ve been incarcerated, but for all ages and social situations.  The information that Dr. Williams provides can even relate to school bullying among children and teenagers.

Registered citizens, their families and friends can connect with others in similar situations at Fearless. In Omaha, Fearless meets at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo Street, in Omaha, on the third Monday of each month.  In Lincoln, Fearless meets on the first Monday of the month (though September’s meeting will be held on September 11, due to Labor Day) at Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street in Lincoln.