Social isolation is more than individuals simply feeling lonely. Research shows that loneliness can have detrimental effects on both mental and physical health. Studies have found loneliness is as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, as bad for you as obesity, and can increase the likelihood of an early death by 26 percent.
The United Kingdom established a Ministry for Loneliness in January 2018 due to the high proportion of fraying social bonds resulting in the loneliest population in Europe. Britons are less likely to know their neighbors and a high proportion of the population says they have no one to rely on in a crisis. Does our city need a Department for Loneliness? Our state? Our country?
Dr. Louise Hawkley is the Director of the Social Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Chicago. She concentrates on the psychological, physiological, and health of individuals during aging, predominantly social isolation (loneliness) and health in the aging process, as well as predictors of loneliness.
Louise is a co-investigator on the ongoing National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP). She is an active interdisciplinary collaborator who works with sociologists, physicians, epidemiologists, and demographers to better understand the complexities of aging. She is a member of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Society on Aging, and serves on the editorial board of Research on Aging.