Are We Lonelier Than Ever?

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What Happens Next?

The Handmaid’s Tale. Brave New World. Mad Max. Fictional dystopias have never seemed so close to becoming reality. Is it too late to change our course 
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The pandemic certainly exacerbated feelings of social isolation, but even before lockdown became the name of the game, global reports of loneliness were creeping up at an alarming rate. Both Japan and the United Kingdom established government positions dedicated to its relief, and little wonder – the cost of loneliness is high.

Social isolation affects us individually and as a society. Its detrimental health effects – including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease – are well-documented. Feelings of loneliness are high among patients with chronic pain, so it’s also strongly associated with opioid abuse. And in 2021, a study from Monash Business School’s Centre of Health Economics found that the effects of loneliness represent a major economic burden as well.

In an age of digital connection, why is humanity feeling more lonely than ever? What are the modern roots of loneliness? What are its hidden costs? And can we address the issue without upending society as we know it?

In part one of a new series of Monash University’s ‘What Happens Next?’, host Dr Susan Carland is joined by sociologist Dr Alan Petersen, life-course epidemiologist Dr Rosanne Freak-Poli, federal MP Andrew Giles, and Dr Suzi Nielsen, Deputy Director of the Monash Addiction Research Centre.

A full transcript of this episode is available on Monash Lens.

‘What Happens Next?’ will be back next week with part two of this series, “Can We End Loneliness?”. In the meantime, learn how one collaboration is using literature to enhance our understanding of loneliness, especially in old age.

If you’re enjoying the show, don’t forget to subscribe and rate or review ‘What Happens Next?’ to help listeners like yourself discover it.

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A Monash University podcast that examines some of the biggest challenges facing our world and asks t 
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