Social distancing could have devastating effect on people with depression

In post-9/11 New York City, for example, many residents leaned on a shared sense of experience and community to process an unprecedented attack. This time around, it’s easy to slip into the unease of viewing a fellow New Yorker as a potential coronavirus carrier or a rival for that last bottle of hand sanitizer on a store shelf.

“Humans are wired to be social creatures, and that’s how we cope when a big disaster happens,” said Judith Moskowitz, a professor of medical social science at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Now, we’re being told to cope with this by staying away from each other.”

She pointed to a 2004 study of 129 Toronto residents who were under quarantine during the SARS epidemic of the previous year, which found that post traumatic stress disorder and depression were observed in 28.9 percent and 31.2 percent of respondents, respectively.

Moskowitz said that as the need for social distancing or self-isolation continues, the key is to maintain human contact as best as people can.