Share This article Share Researchers from the University of New South Wales have found that when we experience social isolation or discomfort, we experience heightened levels of our own anxiety and depression.
In their paper, published in Psychological Science, they found that people who reported feeling socially isolated and/or uncomfortable at least once a week had greater levels of their own anxiety than those who did not.
They also found that participants who experienced social anxiety and/ or depression were more likely to report having experienced social isolation in the past year.
The researchers say the findings suggest that social anxiety is a major contributor to people’s tendency to experience social distress, with social isolation being one of the factors that predicts anxiety and depressive symptoms.
“Social isolation is one of many common symptoms of mental illness, and our research suggests that it contributes to the development of these symptoms,” Dr Joanne Pritchard, from the Department of Psychology at the University’s Faculty of Science, said.
“This suggests that we need to be more sensitive to our social environments to avoid social isolation.”
“The more we feel socially isolated, the more anxious and depressed we become,” she said.
Social anxiety and mental health problemsIn their research, the researchers compared the mental health of participants with and without social anxiety.
“People with social anxiety experienced higher levels of anxiety and were more depressed than people without social panic disorder,” Dr Pritchards said.
The results suggested that social isolation was one of several factors that was associated with more anxiety and increased depressive symptoms in people who experienced depression in the previous year.
“We found that the greater the degree of social anxiety in people with depression, the higher their levels of social stress, and this was related to higher levels the severity of depression symptoms,” she added.
The authors also found some people with social panic disorders had greater depressive symptoms than people with other types of mental health disorders.
“It’s important to stress that the results we found are not definitive and that we’re not saying that social panic is causally related to depression,” Dr Tanya Schmid, from UNSW’s Faculty and Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said in a statement.
“In particular, social anxiety was not a factor in our study.”
Although social anxiety has been shown to be associated with depression in some studies, our results indicate that social stress may also be a contributing factor in the development and severity of depressive symptoms.
“Social anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that causes distress and anxiety.
Symptoms can range from mild anxiety to severe depression.
People who have a mental illness may experience anxiety, panic attacks, or social avoidance behaviours.