This is an excellent work that ties together research from neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, social psychology, and endocrinology. The book presents all of this wonderful science in a way that is accessible to anyone with an interest in the impact of relationships on our well-being.
Cacioppo and Patrick should be commended for providing a model of the way in which science can be true to itself but also made popular for the benefit of the reading public. These authors are able to share some of the more significant insights that come from work in multiple fields in clear prose, light on academic jargon.
The book reads like a synthesis of 15 or so really good articles from Scientific American but are conveyed with a single vision and in an affable voice. Loneliness is a pleasant and interesting read that clearly demonstrates a key truth: we are not alone. The idea of the rugged individual is an absurd myth that has little basis in reality. As Aristotle noted long ago, we are essentially social creatures. We are born from interaction, develop through communal care, and are instinctively driven to gain the esteem of our companions. The pursuit of happiness and well-being must be a joint venture.
The ideas that Cacioppo and Patrick put forward about co-regulation and social dynamics help to break down the individualistic unit of analysis that has plagued a great deal of psychological research and philosophical inquiry. Moreover, this critique of the individualistic bias in scientific research goes a long way towards becoming a more general critique of modern society. The loss of many traditional forms of interrelatedness may be at the source of the malaise and health concerns that pester us all.