Surprising Research on Loneliness

February 3, 2021
Cover of the Harvard Magazine January-February 2021 Issue
After months of social distancing from friends and working remotely, Harvard Magazine's associate editor Jacob Sweet wanted to know more about the psychological and social impacts of isolation and how they were affecting people’s everyday lives during the pandemic. What he found out proved surprising and more interesting than he’d anticipated. Enjoy reading Jacob’s behind-the-scenes insights below on what led to his recent cover story on loneliness.

There would be no more group dinners, and certainly no more hugs, for longer than any of us imagined. As I sat around in my apartment in the weeks and months that followed, I couldn’t help thinking of the pandemic’s social tolls, aside from its obvious health ones. After a couple seasons of social distancing, I thought it would be interesting to talk to experts about what they were observing about relationships and loneliness. And because I work at Harvard Magazine, it wasn’t hard to find them. Within a few days, I had a dozen names of faculty and alumni who had spent their professional lives studying these topics. The story I heard from them was much more interesting than the one I’d originally imagined. It was true that the country was thinking more about loneliness than it had before, but I learned that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.(Read Jacobs's reflections.)