Commenting on the social psychology behind the ongoing pandemic, German-Norwegian psychologist Evelin Gerda Lindner says that Covid-19 could deepen inequality between socio-economic groups over the long-term, while, in the short-term, it undermines peace of mind necessary for robust mental health, and compounds the challenges of people already prone to mental health struggles.
“Most countries have witnessed a dramatic increase of income inequality in the past three decades, and income inequality is associated with the population prevalence of depression. There is a 10 to 15 year difference in life expectancy between Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder and those at the very top, and income inequality has been linked with depression risk,” the Nobel Peace Prize nominee told IANSlife in an interview, adding Covid-19 magnifies this trend.
In 2003, a forerunner of the SARS Covid-19, namely, SARS-CoV-1, afflicted the world. In 2004, the psychological effects of quarantine were studied in Toronto, Canada, and among quarantined persons a high prevalence of psychological distress was found, including symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The medical doctor added, “A key takeaway for 2020 is that ‘Even if we can halt the physical spread of a disease through the expeditious use of quarantine and social distancing, we will still have to contend with its mental health effects in the long-term’.”
On mental health being in the spotlight, she says there are good reasons and bad reasons for why mental health is getting increased attention.
“In short: the ‘good reason’ is dignity, while the ‘bad reason’ is money. The ‘bad reason’: Making more money.”
“As a psychologist, I cannot avoid being aware that the social ‘glue’ that traditionally was provided by the extended family could never be expected from the abstract contracts of the market. New research in relational neuroscience confirms that the human brain and physiology flourish best when people are embedded in webs of caring relationships and that isolation and exclusion activate the same neural pathways as physical pain. Lifelong mental damage results from being neglected, whereas feeling loved renders long-term physical and mental health benefits. Nature and nurture are not separate, they are mutually dependent. A study on adult development, starting in 1938, tracked the lives of 724 men for 75 years and found that nourishing relationships are the key factor for long-lasting happiness,” she said.
The trans-disciplinary scholar and author who is known for her theory of humiliation, was recently a part of an e-conclave ‘Srijan’ organised by Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, Indore. It was organised by Punita Nehru and Swapnil Kothari.
She concludes: “Social distancing norms amplify pre-existing problems and intensify the urgent need to repair and replenish our social ecosystems, our sociophere. As the world watches the heart-breaking coronavirus pandemic unfold, our hope is for an exponential change of heart so that global unity rooted in respect for local diversity becomes possible. The central question we face, which we must ask and answer together, remains: How must we, humankind, arrange our affairs on this planet so that dignified life will be possible in the long term?”