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About The Book|
In today’s world, it is more acceptable to be depressed than to be lonely—yet
loneliness appears to be the inevitable byproduct of our frenetic contemporary
lifestyle. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, one out of four Americans
talked to no one about something of importance to them during the
last six months. Another remarkable fact emerged from the 2000 U.S. Census:
there are more people living alone today than at any point in U.S. history—fully
twenty-five percent of households consist of one person only.
In this crucial look at one of America’s few remaining taboo subjects—loneliness—Drs.
Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz set out to understand the cultural
imperatives, psychological dynamics, and physical mechanisms underlying social
In The Lonely American, cutting-edge research on the physiological
and cognitive effects of social exclusion and emerging work in the neurobiology
of attachment uncover startling, sobering ripple effects of loneliness in areas
as varied as physical health, children’s emotional problems, substance
abuse, and even global warming. Surprising new studies tell
a grim truth about social isolation: being disconnected reduces happiness,
health, and longevity, increases aggression, and correlates with increasing
rates of violent crime. Loneliness doesn’t apply simply to single people,
either—today’s busy parents “cocoon” themselves by
devoting all of their non-work time to children, leaving no time for partners,
friends, and other forms of social contact, and unhealthily relying on the
marriage to fulfill all social needs.
As a core population of socially isolated individuals and families continues
to balloon in size, it is more important than ever to understand the effects
of a culture that idealizes busyness and self-reliance. It’s time to
bring loneliness—a very real and little-discussed social epidemic with
frightening consequences—out into the open, and find a way to navigate
the tension between freedom and connection in our lives.