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Social distancing is purely physical

15 Feb 2021
News 4 min read
Woman on a video call

With the most recent coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions comes a human response.

Author: by experts in mental wellbeing programs and evaluation at VicHealth 

Any coronavirus information mentioned is accurate at the time this article was first published (16 September 2020). For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus restrictions, please visit the source:


The term ‘social distancing’ has swept across the globe alongside the coronavirus pandemic. We support the voices of health experts, who have encouraged using the term ‘physical’ distancing, because while we need to stay away from each other physically, it’s vital we retain our social connections.

Why ‘social distancing’ is being relabelled as ‘physical distancing’


This small word change follows advice from experts, and reflects the need to support people’s mental health and wellbeing at this difficult time.

A new survey from VicHealth highlights this need, with almost 1 in 4 Victorians struggling to feel socially connected to others during the first lockdown – more than double the rate who felt that way before the pandemic in February. 

While we know many people are still using the term ‘social distancing’ we’re choosing to call it physical distancing because we want to ensure everybody knows we can still be social (and we need to be).

In fact, Australians are proving that staying home doesn’t equal social isolation, with displays of kindness such as the balcony opera performance in the video below.

People are continuing to use popular video calling apps, and with so many communities virtually banding together, it's clear being ‘physically’ distant doesn't mean we can't be ‘social’.




So what does social/physical distancing mean?


Tips on how we can keep our distance but stay connected

Remembering ways to stay connected while we stay at home can help us manage this time, just as it did last time.

  • Stay active
    Going for a walk, run or bike ride is a great opportunity to connect with a friends, family or colleagues, and stay physically active at the same time. Meet for outdoor exercise (in accordance with current restrictions in your area) or give someone a call and talk while you walk. Exercise has been shown to be hugely beneficial to both physical and mental wellbeing, particularly during coronavirus If you’re running, it’s worth taking the time to ensure you stay fit and uninjured with these simple tips.

  • Schedule virtual catchups

    Continue to maintain any virtual catchups that you may have been doing with family and friends. Regular connection with people, albeit virtually, is a great way to continue to keep a positive mindset.

  • Write a ‘virtual letter’

    Remember before the internet when people used to practise the art of letter-writing? It’s a great time to find a pen-friend, and a long email is a great virtual alternative to save you having to leave your home to go to a post office. Not sure who to write to? Kids could write to their grandparents, especially as they can’t visit them at the moment (just take photos of hand-written letters and email them). Otherwise, aged-care residents are also a great starting point – whether you know them personally or not. Call an aged-care centre and ask for an email address.

  • Continue hobbies

    Continue to explore new hobbies or interests that you might have started or renewed over this period.  Perhaps you’ve got more time to read some books, cook, finish that TV series or practice that musical instrument that you haven’t picked up for a while. Keep doing the things that you get enjoyment out of and provide a mental break if you’re working from home.



These are just a handful of ideas – you’re only limited by your imagination! The most important thing is to stay connected.


Looking for more tips and advice to help you cope during coronavirus restrictions? Check out our blogs on:


Have a coronavirus question?

For all coronavirus questions visit or call the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) hotline on 1800 020 080.

Department of Health and Human Services graphic

Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022

VicHealth acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land. We pay our respects to all Elders past, present and future.

This website may contain images, names and voices of deceased people.

VicHealth acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.