Humans are social creatures: in this simple and obvious fact lies both the problem and the solution to the current crisis of loneliness. In his groundbreaking book, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy makes a case for loneliness as a public health concern: a root cause and contributor to many of the epidemics sweeping the world today from alcohol and drug addiction to violence to depression and anxiety. Loneliness, he argues, is affecting not only our health but also how our children experience school, how we perform in the workplace, and the sense of division and polarization in our society.
But, at the center of our loneliness is our innate desire to connect. We have evolved to participate in community, to forge lasting bonds with others, to help one another, and to share life experiences. We are, simply, better together.
And yet, in spite of our desire to connect, Dr. Murthy found loneliness in the stories of people everywhere and he wanted to know why. He traveled the country and abroad, meeting with doctors, scientists, children, parents, and community members, and looked to the latest science to better understand why people are feeling so disconnected. It’s no surprise, that in our increasingly complex world, Murthy found equally complex forces contributing to loneliness.
While technology promises to connect us, it can also isolate; while mobility means our loved ones are only a train ride or flight away, we also move away from the communities where we grew up; while we increasingly have the opportunity to pursue our individual destinies, we can put our own goals ahead of our relationships and community; and despite all of the progress we have made in how we talk about mental health, we are still ashamed of feeling lonely. Dr. Murthy further contextualizes the subject with explorations of the social and evolutionary implications of our need to connect and what happens when we find ourselves untethered.
The good news is that with awareness of the causes of our loneliness, comes creative solutions to help ourselves and those we love to create more connected lives. Together offers inspiring and encouraging stories of individuals and communities who are making great strides in helping us to understand that we are not alone.
Told with great compassion and hope, Dr. Murthy makes a powerful and convincing argument for why we can and must build a more connected world.
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