In the book, Noreena argues that loneliness has been becoming a defining condition of the 21st century. Social connections have been eroded by exponentially growing technological power, decades of neoliberal economic policies that have prioritised individualism over the communal good, the erosion of civic institutions, radical upheaval in the workplace and mass migration to cities.
Of course loneliness has a severe toll on our health, both mental and physical; loneliness increases our risk of heart disease, dementia and cancer, and statistically is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
But the costs are also economic and political. Loneliness is costing billions a year and, says Noreena, it is a key driver behind political polarisation: extreme political movements are all too ready to step into the vacuum and provide a sense of community and belonging. This is one of the reasons behind the rise of the far right in Europe.
The elections set to take place in the US, UK and EU over the coming 15 months may well provide further evidence of the extent of this political polarisation. How, then, do we tackle this crisis to create thriving democratic societies where difference is not just tolerated but embraced and celebrated? Where we come together, rather than pulling apart?
Noreena’s book is an ultimately optimistic rallying cry: through judicious economic policy, urban planning, considered use of technology and the cultivation of a compassionate ethic towards our neighbours, colleagues and fellow citizens, we can tackle loneliness and its consequences.
Noreena Hertz is a sought-after keynote speaker, best-selling economist and renowned thought leader with a reputation for predicting global trends. For more information on her speaking topics and availability, or to book her for your event, contact email@example.com.