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How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing

Here’s advice for preserving your mental health while avoiding physical proximity

How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing
Human beings are social creatures. Necessary social isolation during the Coronavirus pandemic is a challenge for our social & mental wellbeing. (Credit: Richard Bailey Getty Images)

With increasing numbers of people isolated because of quarantine and social distancing, COVID-19 is not the only public health threat we should be worried about—loneliness is one as well.

While scientists are rushing to understand how the coronavirus works, researchers have long understood the toll that social isolation and loneliness take on the body. People who do not feel connected to others are more likely to catch a cold, experience depression, develop heart disease, have lower cognitive function and live a shorter life. In fact, the long-term harm caused by loneliness is similar to smoking or obesity.

In January, a national survey found that 79 percent of Gen Zers, 71 percent of millennials and 50 percent of baby boomers feel lonely. Similarly, the proportion of people who belong to any kind of community group, such as a hobby club, sports league or volunteer group, fell from 75 to 57 percent over the past decade. Even without the coronavirus keeping us apart, it seems the majority of the population suffers from poor social health.

Although isolation is the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, we need the exact opposite in response to the loneliness epidemic. So how can you cultivate your social well-being while avoiding infection?

An obvious answer is the device you are reading this article on. People often blame technology for the prevalence of loneliness, pointing out that we spend too much time scrolling through social media and not enough of it interacting IRL. Yet recent research by my colleagues at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health paints a more nuanced picture: how you use such platforms seems to matter more than how much you do so. We can all benefit from developing digital habits that support meaningful human connections—especially now that it may be our only option until the outbreak calms.

Whether you are quarantined, working remotely or just being cautious, now is the perfect time to practice using technology in socially healthy ways. Here are a few suggestions for how to connect without contact.

Face-to-face from afar: The next best thing to in-person interaction is video chat, because facial cues, body language and other nonverbal forms of communication are important for bonding. When possible, opt for video over messaging or calling and play around with doing what you would normally do with others. For example, try having a digital dinner with someone you met on a dating app, a virtual happy hour with friends or a remote book club meeting.

One-minute kindness: Getting lots of likes on a social media post may give you a fleeting hit of dopamine, but receiving a direct message or e-mail with a genuine compliment or expression of gratitude is more personal and longer lasting—without taking much more time. When you find yourself scrolling through people’s posts, stop and send one of them a few kind words. After all, we need a little extra kindness to counter the stress and uncertainty of the coronavirus.

Cultivate your community: The basis of connection is having something in common. Whatever your niche interest is, there is an online community of people who share your passion and can’t wait to nerd out with you about it. There are also digital support groups, such as for new parents or patients with a rare disease. Use these networks to engage around what matters most to you.

Deepen or broaden: Fundamentally, there are two ways to overcome loneliness: nurture your existing relationships or form new ones. Reflect on your current state of social health and then take one digital action to deepen it—such as getting in touch with a friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in a while—or to broaden it—such as reaching out to someone you’d like to get to know.

Use a tool: Increasingly, apps and social platforms are being designed to help us optimize our online interactions with loved ones, including Ikaria, Cocoon, Monaru and Squad. If you do well with structure, these resources may be a useful option for you. Or you can consider using conversation prompts, such as TableTopics or The And, to spark interesting dialogue during a video call.The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that human connection can spread illness. But human connection also promotes wellness. Let’s take this opportunity to recognize the importance of relationships for our health and to practice leveraging technology for social well-being.

Australian Medicos feeling pressure of virus outbreak

The Australian Medical Association admits staff are facing difficulty over coronavirus protection, treatment and possible quarantines.

coronavirus-Medical workers-feeling-pressure
Medical Workers in Australia are under immense pressure from the Coronavirus outbreak. (iStock/Getty Images)

Medical workers are feeling the pressure and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus while they prepare for a potential escalation of the outbreak.

The Australian Medical Association on Thursday released a statement to its members recognising the effort of all frontline staff responding to the crisis.

After meeting with AMA members in Australian capitals, AMA Director Dr Tony Bartone acknowledges the pressure and uncertainty many members have expressed about the virus challenge.

Dr Bartone’s statement says doctors have faced difficulty getting accurate clinical guidance and access to personal protective equipment.

“There is confusion and evidence of insufficient practical information,” the statement reads.

“There are concerns about disruption to practice, potential loss of income, and worry that insurance may not instantly cover any possible practice disruption.”

The statement also admits staff are uncertain about possible virus spread.

Dr Bartone claims he will raise these concerns with Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy in a meeting on Friday, seeking better responses to the medical profession’s concerns.

Interview with a Chinese doctor infected with Coronavirus – CoVid-19

A Doctor’s Road to Recovery. Interesting interview from CGTN with a Chinese Doctor who recovered from Coronavirus.

Doctor says faith, trust and cooperation essential to defeating COVID-19
Watch this video on YouTube.

A Chinese doctor got infected with the novel coronavirus by treating a patient. He was discharged from the hospital after a month-long treatment. He said faith, trust and cooperation were the keys to defeating the disease.

Websites Most Frequently Used by Physician for Gathering Medical Information

In today’s world, Medical Professionals employ more than just their College Degrees to establish Diagnostic decisions.

physician information gathering
Amazing advances in Search, AI & Machine Learning Technologies are being employed frequently as part of the Physician's Diagnostic decision making. (iStock/Getty Images)

Abstract

Physicians’ use of the Internet to gather medical information has increased in recent years. Several studies have been conducted to explore the implications of this use on patient education, the physician-patient relationship, and diagnosis/decision making. In order to better understand the current and future implications of Internet use on patient care activities, it is important to know the Internet sources physicians prefer to consult. The objective of this study was to determine the Internet sources of information physicians most often use to gather medical information. This study demonstrated that the vast majority of physicians indicate they access a targeted site rather than utilize a search engine (such as Google©) to gather medical information. Of the targeted site types, most physicians indicate they use 1) edited/secondary data sources as their primary medical information data retrieving, 2) about one quarter of the physicians surveyed indicated research databases which provide access to medical journal publications 3) a minority of physicians use sites dedicated to their specialized area and 4) a small percentage use medical web site portals.

Methods

A study was conducted to identify which websites physicians prefer using for gathering medical information. As a basis for collecting data, the research team developed an online questionnaire. The online survey method was considered appropriate for this sort of research as it emphasizes collecting data from relatively large numbers of individuals. The Missouri Division of Professional Registration (www.pr.mo.gov) provided the name, last name, middle name and email for 4,671 (December 2004 data) medical physicians and surgeons licensed in Missouri, with e-mail addresses on record. 4,593 of the e-mails were deemed useful after reviewing the record set. Of these 3,113 (67%) lived inside and 1,478 (33%) outside of Missouri. Subjects were invited by automated personalized email to fill in the questionnaire and received one follow-up e-mail 15 days after the initial invitation. Data were analyzed using SPSS.

Results

We received a total of 381 valid responses to questions related to identifying preferred web sites for information gathering (8.3%). The vast majority (92%) of physicians indicate they access a targeted site rather than utilize a search engine (such as Google©) to gather medical information. 47.8% of subjects, who reported using a search engine as their preferred access to medical information reported that they do not consider the search engine an accurate source. In contrast, 96.7 % of physicians using a targeted site indicated they considered their on-line information source as being accurate. Of the targeted site types, 123 (32.3%) physicians indicate they use edited/secondary data sources as their primary medical information data retrieving. Specifically, 10.8% use Uptodate (www.uptodate.com), 8.4% use Medscape (www.medscape.com), 5.5% use Webmd (www.webmd.com), 4.7% use Mdconsult (www.mdconsult.com) and 2.9% use Emedicine (www.emedicine.com). More than one quarter (27.3%), 104, of the physicians surveyed indicated their on-site preferred source of medical information was research databases, which provide access to medical journal publications. Specifically, 19.7% use Pubmed (www.pubmed.org), 3.9% use Ovid, and 3.7% use Medline as their primary web source for on-line medical information gathering. A minority of physicians identified various sites dedicated to their specialized area, with no site representing more than 2.9% of the sample. Finally, a small percentage (3.1%) use medical web site portals (Mercmedicus, www.mercmedicus.com, for example) as their preferred means to gather medical information.

Discussion

The Internet may be an essential way for physicians to improve their medical knowledge and to acquire updated information about health care and their profession. Unlike many information seekers, physicians in search of medical data seem overwhelmingly to favor targeted sites rather than web browsing for medical information. It is of note that most targeted sites contain edited and/or secondary data. Since the knowledge gained on line is transformed in practice, one may question whether a comprehensive view is obtained when consulting an edited source and/or only one preferred source.

via – NCBI | Source – NCBI | Search  》Medical Professionals Research Resources | Twitter @Encyclomedical

The most stressful specialties for Physician Burnout

physician-burnout
Illustration of an exhausted Physician. Source – unknown.

An online survey of doctors finds an overall physician burnout rate of 42%, which is down from 46% five years ago. Three new entries in the top six specialties with the highest rates of burnout compared with last year’s edition of the survey provide medical students and residents with new insight into their future careers.

The survey finds finds the physician burnout rate continues to drop and remains below 50% among doctors in the U.S., which mirrors results from a triennial study from the AMA, the Mayo Clinic and Stanford University School of Medicine. However, more work still needs to be done.

More than 15,000 physicians from 29 specialties responded to the survey conducted by the Medscape news website. The survey asked about the prevalence of physician burnout factors and how they affect doctors’ lives. This year, nephrology saw the biggest increase in physician burnout, climbing from 32% to 49%.

In the Medscape survey, the highest percentage of physician burnout occurred among these medical specialties:

  • Urology: 54%.
  • Neurology: 50%.
  • Nephrology: 49%.
  • Diabetes and endocrinology: 46%.
  • Family medicine: 46%.
  • Radiology: 46%.

The lowest rates of burnout were reported by physicians in these medical specialties:

  • Public health and preventive medicine: 29%.
  • Ophthalmology: 30%.
  • Orthopedics: 34%.
  • Psychiatry: 35%.
  • Otolaryngology: 35%.
  • General surgery: 35%.

via – AMA | About AMA