Surviving lockdown, a new book explores how to tackle cabin fever

Friday, 05 March 2021
A new book by experts at the University of Nottingham, looks at how people cope during prolonged periods of isolation, how people avoided ‘cabin fever’ during lockdown and provides a reflection that may help as we come out of lockdown to understand its impact on our mental health.

The Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged confinement and isolation during lockdown have had a detrimental impact on the mental health of people around the world.

In a new book, Cabin Fever, Professor Paul Crawford from the School of Health Sciences and the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham and Data Analyst Jamie Orion Crawford, use their research to look at the threat of cabin fever during lockdown and the kind of antidotes that have countered it.

Whilst we have faced the greatest period of isolation in our lifetimes, we must remember that cabin fever is not new, it happens sea, on land, in the air and in space. But perhaps most importantly, it occurs in our minds."
Professor Paul Crawford

“Fortunately, we know that there are several potential antidotes to cabin fever, such as: accessing outdoor space, not least nature; acceptance of the ‘new normal’; social connectedness (largely achieved digitally during the pandemic); working as a ‘crew’; setting goals and purpose to each day; conceiving home during lockdown as a sanctuary rather than a prison; looking after the body (nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise); and engaging with or experiencing creativity through the arts, crafts and humanities.”

As part of their research, the book delves into the origins and history of cabin fever, in particular how the psychological folk syndrome developed out of the affliction of physical infection, notably in the case of typhus, which spread from the overcrowded, rural cabins of Ireland in the Great Famine to the pioneering frontiers of North America.

Professor Paul Crawford

It was here that the notion of a psychological ‘fever’ or restlessness began to replace the actual physical fever of typhus, as pioneers took to their cabins for long periods, especially during winter months. Similar syndromes, with different names, emerged in other challenging or remote regions.

Professor Crawford and Jamie explore the evidence of mental decline caused by prolonged or extreme social isolation, in particular what we can learn from penal history and solitary confinement as well as the importance of social connectivity in maintaining good mental health. Accounts from literature, memoir, and reportage reveal the fascinating and sometimes frightening aspects of the phenomenon.

Professor Crawford said: “In the last year, we have all had to learn how to live with lockdown, and sadly this may now be something we have to do in the future too. We hope the book will help people as they come out of lockdown to make sense of it, better understand the experience and mental health challenges they faced and plan ahead in case variant infections escape the available vaccines and we all have to head back indoors.”

Cabin Fever is available from March 8 here.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Paul Crawford from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham at

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Phone: 0115 748 4417

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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