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Social Isolation

Social isolation and loneliness in children can lead to poor psychological and physical health later in their adult years.

Children who do not interact with others are likely to develop a life-long pattern of social isolation and inactivity according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Over time social isolation can lead to various health problems says Glenn Aylward, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

SOUND BITE: “ . . . if you have a more sedentary lifestyle, a more withdrawing lifestyle, well, the likelihood of increasing weight because of lack of physical activity, increasing blood pressure perhaps because of anxiety, depression, whatever it is, and so on, is there.”
Aylward says overcoming the effects of social isolation is more effective when addressed at an early age.  If a child is not developing friendships with other children by the time they reach kindergarten and early elementary school years, there are steps parent can take to help the child.

SOUND BITE: “ . . . identifying a child that their own child could have an interaction with and inviting that child over, taking them both to the movies or things like that would be very, very advantageous.  If we see the level of social isolation, anxiety or depression increase, then obviously interventions of a more substantial nature are necessary such as counseling or psychotherapy.”

Aylward suggests that a parent encourage their child to be physically active and participate in group activities.  If the child continues to be socially isolated, the parents should discuss the concern with a family physician or mental health counselor.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.