Is there money to be made from loneliness?

It’s a horrible question, to be sure.

But if you think about it, most professions make money from the misfortune of others. Doctors make money from the illness of a patient and a horticulturalist makes money out of a failing crop. Viewed this way, it makes the question sadly more palatable.

How Americans spend their time

This article in the Guardian titled “Loneliness will be the next great moneyspinner?” reminds us too, that loneliness is not merely and affliction of the old.

The British Mental Health Foundation’s Lonely Society report found that 18- to 34-year-olds were more likely to suffer from loneliness than those over 55, and it suggested that loneliness might be having a cohort effect, with younger generations feeling progressively more isolated.

Another study found 43 percent of the wider population reported feeling lonely at least some of the time, 32 percent lacking companionship, 25 percent feeling left out and 18 percent feeling isolated at least some of the time.

So again we see that there is more that unites generations, than divides them.

It’s also the case that many of the health effects associated with loneliness are cumulative: if we want to prevent loneliness-related cardiovascular disease among 60-year-olds, we need to start addressing social connection among people in their 20s.

Loneliness and the aging population is an excellent report from IBM (download here). It states that there is abundant medical literature that supports a linkage between loneliness in older adults and declining health.

Multiple research studies cite poor health outcomes, including:

  • 29 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease and 32 percent increased risk of stroke
  • 64 percent increase in developing dementia
  • 26 percent increased likelihood of death

So if loneliness is the problem, where’s the money? An excellent ‘billion-dollar’ question waiting for an answer.

There are many local community-based initiatives to combat loneliness, but where’s the innovative, global disruptor?