What Introverts Can Teach Us About Being Alone

To solve the loneliness epidemic, it’s time to practice feeling comfortable solo

Starre Julia Vartan
Elemental
Published in
5 min readAug 28, 2019

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Illustration: Ellie Ji Yang

“The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes because they were lost in them and no one noticed them and they could be alone in them and be together.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Loneliness, experts keep stressing, is a public health crisis.

“Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity,” former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in 2017 in the Harvard Business Review. It’s true that in recent years loneliness has been linked to higher rates of early death, heart disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. Anti-loneliness campaigns have been launched in England, Australia, and Denmark. It’s estimated that half a million people in Japan live as modern-day hermits called hikikomori — “people who shut themselves in their homes.”

Loneliness as a phenomenon is often attributed to the elderly, and the effects it can have on their health have been studied more thoroughly than other groups. But according to a recent survey by the health insurance company

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Starre Julia Vartan
Elemental

AKA The Curious Human. Science journalist & nature nerd w/serious wanderlust. Former geologist. Still picks up rocks. Words in @NatGeo @SciAm @Slate @CNN, here.