The Lonely Century  


The Lonely Century
February 2, 2021 | 384 pages
ISBN: 9780593135839

"An economist takes on the most urgent social issue of our time, exploring the evolution of the global loneliness crisis, the sweeping impact of social isolation during the coronavirus, and the opportunities a post-Covid world presents to reverse these trends-by finding new ways to reconnect with each other, our communities, and even our democracy. Even before the global pandemic brought terms like "social distancing" into the vernacular, loneliness was well on its way to becoming the defining trait of the twenty-first century. Today, nearly half of adults in the United States report feeling lonely, and more than twenty percent of millennials say they have "no friends at all." All around us, the fabric of community is unraveling. And technology isn't the lone culprit. Rather, the crisis stems from the dismantling of civic institutions, the radical reorganization of the workplace, mass urban migration, and decades of neoliberal policies that placed self-interest above the collective good. On one hand, the prolonged period spent under lockdown has accelerated these trends: from remote work to contactless commerce to the hollowing out of shared public spaces. On the other, it has sharpened our awareness of the toll isolation takes on our families, our communities, and our mental health. This is not merely a mental health crisis. Loneliness increases our risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Statistically, it's as bad for our health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. It's also an economic crisis, costing us billions annually. And it's a political crisis, as feelings of marginalization fuel divisiveness and extremism around the world. In The Lonely Century, readers accompany Hertz as she "rents a friend" in Manhattan, attends a "how to read a face" class at an Ivy League university, and meets Japanese nursing home residents who knit bonnets for their robot caregivers. Along the way, she urges us to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to create, post-pandemic: one where we retreat further into our self-isolating bubbles and remain ever-fearful of others, or one where we are more committed to reconnecting with one another, and with the democratic process itself. From compassionate AI to new models for urban living to the ingenuity unleashed in finding new ways to stay connected in the era of social distancing, The Lonely Century offers a hopeful vision for how to heal our fractured communities and restore connection in our lives. In the wake of Covid-19, this is not only more urgent, but more possible than ever"--