Self-isolating ‘may increase your risk of coronavirus’, an expert has controversially claimed.
Professor Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, claims time spent in isolation may actually increase your vulnerability to upper respiratory viruses, and perhaps coronavirus.
Professor Cohen said: “We know little about why some of the people exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, are more likely to develop the disease than others.
“However, our research on psychological factors that predict susceptibility to other respiratory viruses may provide clues to help identify factors that matter for COVID-19.”
Through a series of studies, Professor Cohen examined how different factors affect whether or not healthy adults exposed to viruses become ill.
He explained: “The focus on the pandemic up until now has been changing behaviors to avoid exposure to the virus.
“In our work, we intentionally exposed people to cold and influenza viruses and studied whether psychological and social factors predict how effective the immune system is in suppressing infection, or preventing or mitigating the severity of illness.”
The experiments revealed that participants who had experienced difficult situations dealing with other people were more likely to catch the virus.
Meanwhile, participants who had been through social or psychological stress had increased levels of cytokine production – the proteins that promote inflammation in response to infection.
Based on these findings, Professor Cohen suggests that carefully integrating back into society could offer a protective shield against coronavirus.
He added: “If you have a diverse social network (social integration), you tend to take better care of yourself (no smoking, moderate drinking, more sleep and exercise).
”Also if people perceive that those in their social network will help them during a period of stress or adversity (social support) then it attenuates the effect of the stressor and is less impactful on their health.”