Going beyond bestsellers such as Robert D. Putnam’s Bowling Alone and Sebastian Junger’s Tribe, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States addresses what he calls a key, underappreciated public health issue—loneliness—and offers solutions for strengthening our real-world connections to counteract the forces driving depression, violence, addiction, and political polarization.
“During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”—Vivek Murthy, Harvard Business Review
In this groundbreaking book, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, transforms our understanding of the unexpected and grave threat to our health: loneliness.
Murthy traveled the country meeting with doctors, mental health professionals, and individuals to better understand the opioid addiction decimating communities—a crisis which has only grown larger in recent years. He discovered a larger issue underlying the epidemics of not only addiction but also anxiety, suicide, and violence. People are feeling disconnected from others, and they lack a sense of community.
But why are we so lonely? Murthy identifies multiple causes: technology, mobility, work culture, commercialism, the tilt toward individualism and away from collectivism, and the weakening of social and community institutions—including a decline in religious activities. When frequent and sustained, loneliness puts our body in a chronic stress state, leading to increased inflammation and greater risk for illness.
The good news is that we can alleviate loneliness by building stronger connections. Murthy sets forth core principles in strengthening connection and looks to examples from various communities and cultures that have created successful efforts to reduce loneliness. Dr. Murthy makes a powerful and convincing argument for why we can and must to build a more connected world.