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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Well-Being in the Age of COVID-19: The Role of Social Distancing


In March of 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 an international public health emergency. In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommended implementing social distancing practices. In this study (N = 732), we examined self-reported indicators of social distancing (e.g., avoiding physical contact, declining social gatherings), duration of social distancing (in days), and the number of times participants went outside in the past week as simultaneous predictors of various measures of well-being (i.e., loneliness, emotional states). When controlling for overall satisfaction of life, findings suggested that individuals who reported higher levels of social distancing also reported more negative emotions, less positive emotions, and more anxiety symptoms. Surprisingly, individuals who reported higher levels of social distancing reported less loneliness. Individuals who reported going outside more often also indicated less loneliness, fewer depressive symptoms, and fewer anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest that social distancing practices play a substantial but nuanced role in well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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