Craving connection: the cost of social isolation

In his podcast interview for HBR Ideacast, Vivek Murthy describes loneliness as “the feeling that the connections that we need in life are greater than the social connections that we’re experiencing right now”. Even before COVID-19 introduced the concept of ‘social distancing’, research suggested that up to 25% of the population in some countries is experiencing loneliness, with potentially damaging impacts on both physical and mental health.

The two mindmaps below bring together notes from Vivek’s interview, as well as a recently published report by Discover AI, a UK-based company specialising in machine learning and AI. Their work looks at millions of blogs, social media posts and news sites to extract human stories on loneliness, social isolation and separation.

From these behavioural themes, we can begin to consider how we might cope with COVID-19 both now and into the future. As one individual commented on their own experience: “That time away from family, friends and my community helped me realise that I had a role to play in society“. Those organisations who continue to support, protect and proactively connect their communities during this time are more likely to emerge more resilient, innovative and ready to move forward as a team.