Coping With COVID-19 if You Live Alone

Living alone during social isolation could be totally fine.

Posted Feb 24, 2021 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

 Alex Green/Pexels
Source: Alex Green/Pexels

The COVID-19 outbreak and associated physical distancing measures altered the social world for most people, but those who live alone may have been disproportionately affected. For example, a recent study reports on adults who live alone during COVID and shows that they are less likely to see others in person or to receive/provide help.

But there are several ways that singles can get social support. Indeed, my research taught me that singles invest more in their social circles and even derive more satisfaction from these connections. Singles are closer to their relatives, they join more clubs, and they also know their neighborhoods better. All of these are resources during such times as the COVID-19 pandemic, and they can rely on a more diverse network of social support, even if it is through online channels.

In contrast, partnered people usually adopt a pattern of behavior termed in research “greedy marriage,” by which they turn inwards into their partnership and abandon many of their friends. Married men, in fact, suffer from this the most. Thus, many coupled people rely on each other, but this is almost the only resource they have.

What Policymakers Can Do

Still, policymakers should do more. While governments and local authorities invest in efforts tom take care of families, not enough is done for those who live alone. Schools and community centers initiated programs for children and their parents, and social distancing laws are not applied to family members who live together.

Singles, however, have their own needs, and because they face stigmatization, often combined with ageism, they need their own safe spaces, even if it’s online. Such spaces, however, are still rare, and we really need to support this population in this crisis. Zoom meetings organized by social workers, online consultations with local volunteers, and even peer-to-peer virtual social activities are desperately in need today.

In addition, there are several concerns about how singlism (discrimination against singles) might affect unmarried adults during the COVID-19 crisis. The research of Joan DelFattore, presented in the video below, is an excellent example of a situation where singles receive a sub-optimal treatment precisely because they are single.

While her research was done on cancer treatments, it might well be that experimental treatments for COVID-19 are given to singles less frequently than to partnered people. Doctors, consciously or unconsciously, base their decisions on the false assumption that singles don’t have enough support in case of failure. This assumption is simply a show of singlism and prejudice. Singles may actually have a better support system in such cases, with more people to chip in for help.

Therefore, we should be more aware of singles today, but also see how singles can teach society how to live apart together. Perhaps it is an opportunity to change our mindset and open up to full-scale living options.