I was riding a bus recently and noticed an older man sitting outside a coffee shop on a busy sidewalk. He had set up a chessboard on the table in front of him, and he watched as people passed by, mostly engrossed in their phones. His eyes kept jumping from person to person, searching for someone to notice and join him for a game of chess. Right before the traffic cleared and my bus moved on, he reached over to make the first move, and then resumed his searching.
Loneliness is rampant, and it’s killing us—literally. Anywhere from one quarter to one half of Americans feel lonely a lot of the time, which puts them at risk for developing a range of physical and mental illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression. This is a public health problem that needs to be addressed on a wide scale.