Help the GGSC raise money to launch Greater Good in Action - Click Here
   
 

Book Review: Loneliness

By Jill Suttie | December 1, 2008 | 0 comments

by John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick
W.W. Norton & Company, 2008, 317 pages

According to psychologist John Cacioppo, the feeling of loneliness has an evolutionary basis: We feel pain when we are lonely because that pain warns us we are in danger of becoming isolated, and isolation can be harmful, if not deadly.

In this well-researched book, Cacioppo and his co-author, journalist William Patrick, explain how we are wired to read human faces for social cues, but that lonely people are less skilled at this and, therefore, have more trouble maintaining meaningful relationships. Lonely people have less self-confidence and so have problems standing up for themselves and finding employment. The stresses of loneliness weaken our cardiovascular and immune systems, which decreases overall life expectancy. If the research cited in Loneliness is accurate, it’s clear why we are wired to avoid loneliness.

Cacioppo and Patrick argue against social policies and urban planning that lead to social isolation, and suggest ways individuals can reduce their loneliness. “The degree of social connection that can improve our health and our happiness, as well as the daily experience of everyone who comes in contact with us, is both as simple and as difficult as being open and available to others,” they write. Of course, therein lies the rub: Lonely people may find the cure hard to manage if they aren’t good at reading people or have low self-confidence. But Cacioppo claims that engaging in small acts of kindness and generosity—even anonymous ones, like paying a bridge toll for the driver who’s behind you—can increase happiness levels in the lonely. And we can all benefit from a little more of that.

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 
About The Author

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.

  

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Most...

  
  • How to Help Teens Find Purpose

    April 16, 2015

    Teens are naturally driven to seek new experiences—and that may be the key to helping them develop a sense of purpose in life.

  • Can Music Help Keep Memory Alive?

    April 21, 2015

    A conversation with the makers of Alive Inside, a new documentary about how music is helping people with dementia.

  • How to Help a Narcissist to Forgive

    April 14, 2015

    Narcissists struggle to forgive people for even minor transgressions. But a new study points the way forward.

  

Greater Good Events

How Compassion Creates Resilience, with Kelly McGonigal
International House, UC Berkeley campus
May 20, 2015


How Compassion Creates Resilience, with Kelly McGonigal

A book event for The Upside of Stress


» ALL EVENTS
 
 

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!

» TAKE A QUIZ
 

Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.

Watch
 

Greater Good Resources

 
 
» MORE STUDIES
 
 
» MORE ORGS
 

Book of the Week

The Path to Purpose By William Damon Looks at how children are hampered in their search for meaning, and how concerned adults can help them find it.

» READ MORE
 
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement