Loneliness is bad for your health. Social isolation is associated with a significantly increased risk of premature death. And the problem resists fixing; solitary people who participate in experiments meant to nudge them into joining groups tend to have high rates of recidivism. According to a study published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, however, it might be possible to reduce loneliness by using cellphones to teach a particular type of meditation.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and several other institutions recruited 153 men and women who considered themselves stressed out — the study was slightly mischaracterized to disguise a primary concern, loneliness. Next, the volunteers completed questionnaires: They were asked about their social networks, their interactions with others and their feelings of loneliness, if any. Their baseline levels of sociability were established through texts that prodded them to answer questions about what they were doing and with whom. This monitoring lasted three days.