Evolution have shaped us humans to seek social connection like how we need food and water. When we do not meet our social needs, we experience loneliness. Yet, more and more people today find themselves being increasingly isolated and lonely. This chronic loneliness is found to be bad for health, elevating the risks of a range of diseases.

A body of research that scientists is pursuing is a pill for loneliness. The hypothesis is that if there are pharmacological treatments for social pains like depression and anxiety, there might be one for loneliness. Currently, unlike depression and anxiety, loneliness has no recognised diagnosis or treatment. The researchers’ goal is to interfere with the way loneliness affects the brain and body, rather than stopping the feeling of loneliness.

On the other hand, a psychologist believes that this condition can be improved through lifestyle adjustments. Modern life has been designed such that people are increasingly able to disengage from each other, and there are non-pharmacological strategies to rely on.

Read the full article on The Guardian: Scientists are working on a pill for loneliness

Analysis:

There could possibly be value in treating the social condition of loneliness as a medical problem. In the catch-22 situation where lonely people feel too stressed and anxious to reach out to others for the interaction that they need in the first place, the pill could be a intervention. However, this solution is not enough.

As the psychologist in the article points out, it is our current way of life with technology that reduces social interactions. Countering this phenomenon with stronger community ties and social support could alleviate chronic loneliness more effectively. Perhaps traditional ways of offline engagement will need to change and institutions have to curate novel social experiences to attract the crowds who have been absorbed in the digital world of social media. The crux is to be provide a better alternative to draw the attention of people so that our social needs can be met again.

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. What are your views about treating loneliness with pills?
  2. Why do you think people are getting more lonely in our modern society?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. ‘primeval’: (of emotion or behaviour) strongly instinctive and unreasoning
  2. ‘insatiable’: impossible to satisfy
  3. ‘ossify’: cease developing; stagnate
  4. ‘untethered’: release or free from

Picture credits:https://unsplash.com/photos/Pv5WeEyxMWU

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