Covid-19 Lockdowns: How Social Isolation Impacts The Brain

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented levels of social isolation. This is due to strict physical distancing measures implemented by different governments. Although the measures have effectively slowed down the virus, they have significantly strained people. One area that has been particularly affected is the brain. Therefore, it is worth taking a closer look at how social isolation impacts brain function.

Increased Stress

Humans being social animals, need to share our thoughts, feelings, and emotions with others. Without the physical presence of another human being, we can become distressed.

One of the main ways that social isolation impacts the brain is through its effects on stress. Prolonged periods of social isolation leads to increased levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol. High cortisol levels can lead to problems with memory and learning. Furthermore, it also contributes to anxiety and depression.

Weakens Immune System

Another way that social isolation impacts the brain is through its effects on the immune system. Social isolation weakens the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. This can have a ripple effect on brain function, as an infection can cause inflammation in the brain, leading to cognitive problems.

Alters Brain Chemistry and Structure

Social isolation alters the balance of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. They play a key role in mood regulation. When there is an imbalance of these neurotransmitters, it can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Social isolation can also affect the structure of the brain. Studies have shown that social isolation shrinks the hippocampus– an important part of memory and learning.

Reduces Longevity

Aside from the brain, social isolation has also affected overall health and longevity. People who experience chronic social isolation are at a higher risk of developing various health problems. These include hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Anyone can experience the negative effects of social isolation, regardless of age or gender. However, people with pre-existing health conditions are the most vulnerable.


The preventive measures for COVID-19, although effective have significantly increased social isolation. As humans are social animals, it goes against our nature to be alone. This has caused great mental distress among people of all ages, reducing longevity. Social isolation has affected the brain, which has increased stress and weakened the immune system. Similarly, due to prolonged social isolation, the brain’s structure has changed.