Read About the Book

Feeling cut off from others now and then is part of the human condition. By exploring this seemingly commonplace experience, John Cacioppo’s pioneering research gives us a fundamentally new way of understanding human nature and ourselves. His sophisticated studies relying on brain imaging, analysis of blood pressure, immune response, stress hormones, behavior, and even gene expression, show that human beings are simply far more intertwined and interdependent—physiologically as well as psychologically—than our cultural assumptions have ever allowed us to acknowledge.

Bringing urgency to the message, Cacioppo’s findings also show that prolonged loneliness can be as harmful to your health as smoking or obesity. On the flip side, they demonstrate the therapeutic power of social connection, and point the way toward making that healing balm available to everyone.

Cacioppo has worked with science writer William Patrick to trace the evolution of these tandem forces, showing how for our primitive ancestors, survival depended not on greater brawn, but on greater commitments to and from each other. Serving as a prompt to repair frayed social bonds, the pain of loneliness engendered a fear response so powerfully disruptive that even now, millions of years later, a persistent sense of rejection or isolation can impair DNA transcription in our immune cells. This disruption also impairs thinking, will power, and perseverance, as well as our ability to read social signals and exercise social skills. It also limits our ability to internally regulate our emotions—all of which can combine to trap us in self-defeating behaviors that reinforce the very isolation and rejection that we dread.

Loneliness shows each of us how to overcome this feedback loop of defensive behaviors to achieve better health and greater happiness. For society, the potential pay off is the greater prosperity and social cohesion that follows from increased social trust.

Ultimately, Loneliness demonstrates the irrationality of our culture’s intense focus on competition and individualism at the expense of family and community. It makes the case that the unit of one is actually an inadequate measure, even when it comes to the health and well being of the individual.

John Cacioppo is the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, and past President of the Association for Psychological Science. He lives in Chicago. William Patrick, formerly the science editor at Harvard University Press, is editor in chief of The Journal of Life Sciences. He lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

What Others Are Saying About Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

The book is being lauded for advancing our understanding of human nature and behavior.  The following is a sample of what people are saying about the book.

“This wise, beautifully written, and often funny book brings the underlying science of social ties to life. It is a tour de force on one of the most significant known influences on human health.” —Shelley E. Taylor, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, and author of The Tending Instinct: Women, Men, and the Biology of Relationships.

“This is by far the landmark book on loneliness, and its reciprocal, social connection.  Loneliness will be the landmark book in social neuroscience for a long time.”  Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

“Both heartbreaking and illuminating, this fascinating book describes what psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered about our fundamental need to belong to others and the dire consequences of belonging only to ourselves. A masterful blend of biological and social science, Loneliness is one of the most important books about the human condition to appear in a decade.” Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness

“Just as hunger prevents us from starving and pain causes us to retreat from physical danger, the authors help us see that loneliness is a symptom of our basic need to connect. . . . This fascinating, complex, and yet highly accessible exploration reminds us that humans are inherently social creatures and that no child or adult can develop properly in the absence of strong social bonds.” —Melinda Blau, coauthor of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers, and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

“Based on years of research, this magnificent exposé discusses the loneliness many people feel, advising them to reach out to others. Our species naturally reciprocates social gestures.” —Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape

“I never imagined that one book could explain so much about human nature. And yet this scientific exploration does not diminish us. Instead, it exalts our simple humanity. Loneliness is a beautiful message of human connection and a beautiful book.” —Sidney Poitier, Academy Award–winning actor and author of The Measure of a Man

“After reading this book you’ll never want to be lonely again — nor will you have to be.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, C. S. and D. J. Davidson Professor of Psychology and Management, Claremont Graduate University, and author of Flow