Impact of COVID-19 on social relationships and health

Published 23rd August 2021

A new SPHSU briefing summarises the key ways through which social relationships were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial response to COVID-19 in the UK was reactive, with little time to fully consider the social implications, including interpersonal and community relationships. It was regrettable that the term ‘social distancing’ was introduced, since only physical proximity causes viral transmission and we know that many forms of social proximity (e.g. conversations with friends) are crucial to maintaining relationships supportive of health and wellbeing.

The briefing makes three recommendations for future public health policy and recovery:

  1. The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on social relationships should be counted as part of the public health cost of the pandemic. These costs should be considered alongside things like economic impacts.
  2. Innovation in online ways of interacting has been a positive outcome of the pandemic. But we should be careful about wholesale replacement of face-to-face interactions (e.g., in the workplace). We should aim for intelligent balancing between the two, which maximises the benefits of each.
  3. The switch to greater home-working and reduced travel provides opportunities to build stronger and more sustainable local communities.

Briefing: COVID-19 and social relationships

'COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on social relationships and health' is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.


First published: 23 August 2021

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