With an average of two viral diseases a year jumping the species barrier to humans  in tandem with the destruction of the last of the natural environment , the Covid-19 pandemic must be seen as a vital learning opportunity to develop mechanisms for preventing, mitigating and managing the further pandemics that will occur in the coming years. One important element of this preparation must be developing an understanding of the specific effects of pandemics on mental health.
The current pandemic has had a wide-reaching effect on societies, with major changes to patterns of work, education, travel and socialising. From the outset, it was recognised that the pandemic would have a significant negative impact on mental health. [4–7] Early research produced two themes of immediate significance. The first documented the adverse effects of the pandemic on wellbeing, leading to the description of a syndrome increasingly referred to as Covid stress syndrome – a traumatic syndrome with symptoms of intrusive worrying thoughts, hypervigilance (including doomscrolling) and avoidance. These findings led to the development of the Covid stress syndrome scale. [8, 9]
The second theme was the assessment of risk perception. Risk perception is a major driver of health related behaviours [10, 11] and is therefore important in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. The development of specific scales to measure risk perception around Covid [12, 13] has been important in helping to understand evolving public health behaviours and to inform public health interventions. In a rapidly-evolving research field it is difficult to summarise the current state of research, however there have been several valuable overviews of the literature by Zavlis  and Cortez .
The institution of lockdown regimes across the world led to concern about the effects of isolation on mental health. [16–20] In education, the switch to online learning has led to a reduction in social contact and interaction, a diminished sense of engagement in a learning community, increasing loneliness and the emergence of the phenomenon of cabin fever.  Although cabin fever is not yet a well-defined entity, it describes the adverse effects of being confined to a small space with or without others. Anecdotally, it is characterised by anxiety, unusual tiredness or sleepiness, irritability, moodiness, boredom, depression, or feeling of helplessness. It is akin to, but distinct from the concept of entrapment. 
To date there has been one proposed scale measuring cabin fever by Cong and Rabbani  which was developed on the basis of descriptive accounts. However, to date there have been no data-driven attempts to identify the characteristics of cabin fever and the social isolation associated with lockdown.
In common with other schools and universities, the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences adapted its learning delivery to online platforms in response to national lockdown requirements. Aware of the significant effect on student mental health reported in the numerous publications in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, we conducted a survey of our students as part of our ongoing student support programme.
The survey was a scoping survey, designed to provide information across a broad spectrum of areas of concern. For this reason, instead of using multiple validated scales to assess each domain – which would have created an unwieldy survey that was unlikely to engage student engagement – we instead tapped each area using one or two sentinel questions.
In this paper we report on the derivation of a short scale to measure the impact of social isolation on students, based on responses to the survey.