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Loneliness: More Than Just a Bad Mood

Many of us are becoming more and more isolated from family and friends, argue psychiatrists Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz.

Q. It’s interesting that smaller households are actually worse for the environment than larger households.

JO. Isn’t that amazing? And we’re very worried that in the old Victorian-novel sense—like in Jane Austen’s novels—that a lot of people get set in their ways. There’s stupid folk wisdom about how you have to be able to live by yourself and love yourself before you could possibly live with anybody else. We think that’s really dumb.

Q. The studies indicate a major trend toward an increasingly desolate society where people don’t really have any close bonds. So I’m hoping you can tell me about some hopeful signs you’ve seen lately.

RS. There are a couple of hopeful signs. The last election more so than many others actually mobilized people into pretty connected groups working together. Another thing is that in Manhattan, where there are more single-person dwellings than anyplace else in the country, some high-end condominium buildings are designing common spaces where people can share meals together. So there is a sense that the pendulum is swinging back.

Christie Findlay is editor in chief of Politics magazine.

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