Members in the Media
From: Science

Striving to Connect

One Wednesday in May 2023, a small group gathered at an outdoor café in Barcelona, Spain, sipping coffee in the late morning sunshine and talking about their lives. They reflected on how to use their time and the struggle to find meaning. Although their interactions may have seemed unremarkable to anyone passing by, the group’s meeting was part of a carefully designed experiment, aimed at alleviating a painful experience: loneliness.

High rates of loneliness and isolation have led some public officials, including U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, to declare an “epidemic.” But whether loneliness is spiking isn’t so clear. Some studies have shown recent increases, whereas others suggest levels are relatively stable, notes psychologist and neuroscientist Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University.

Trends toward increasing isolation, however, are more obvious: Data from the European Union, for example, show a steady increase in the proportion of people living alone between 2009 and 2020. In the United States, a large-scale survey of how people use their time has revealed decreases in time spent with family, friends, and others, such as neighbors and co-workers, between 2003 and 2020. “These things aren’t necessarily loneliness. … But they do show a general pattern of less social connection,” Holt-Lunstad says. “We have reason to be concerned.”

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): Science

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