Many Americans felt socially isolated during the pandemic, cut off from friends and family as they hunkered down and kept their distance to try to protect themselves from infection.

But new research released Thursday suggests many people’s sense of isolation increased even as the public health crisis in the United States began to abate, with communities opening up and the economy improving.

While the level of social isolation declined during the spring of the pandemic after the initial shock of the crisis subsided, it then increased sharply over the summer months last year, according to researchers at Harvard, Northeastern, Northwestern and Rutgers universities, before leveling off during the fall.

People began to feel less disconnected last December through April of this year, but the levels of social isolation measured by the researchers increased again this June.

The findings suggest recovery from the pandemic may take a long time and could affect people’s view of their relationships over time. “There were cumulative effects from the social isolation,” said David Lazer, a professor of political science and computer sciences at Northeastern and one of the study authors.


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