Is Your Horse Lonely? The Negative Effects of Social Isolation

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions

Restrictions on social gatherings due to COVID-19 over the past year have led to a surge of news headlines warning about the harmful psychological effects of social isolation in humans, which include impaired health, sleep, and immune function. The spotlight on social isolation raises questions about the effect it might have on horses as well.

Social Isolation Is Stressful

Much of what we know about the harmful effects of social isolation comes from biomedical research with animals. Social isolation is an animal model for human neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, attention-deficit disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia. Stress is induced in laboratory animals through physical restraint, mild pain, impoverished environment, and social isolation, all of which have striking parallels to some equine management practices.

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