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It’s good to be able to talk to someone

Is it any wonder that loneliness is the malaise of this millennium, and has been identified as an aggravator of health hazards from depression to heart disease and type-II diabetes?

ET Bureau|
Jan 20, 2018, 08.02 AM IST
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It is possible now in the west to accomplish most daily chores without ever seeing or interacting with another human being. Helplines are automated, as are banks, grocery stores have self-checkouts, airports have self-check-ins, most items including food can be ordered online and may soon also be delivered only by drones, trains are driverless, factories have robots, meetings are online, movies are watched alone at home, even games are played solo.

Is it any wonder that loneliness is the malaise of this millennium, and has been identified as an aggravator of health hazards from depression to heart disease and type-II diabetes? British Prime Minister Theresa May has decided to combat this lifestyle disease — which affects nine million Britons — by appointing a so-called Minister for (or rather, against) Loneliness. Other countries are being pressed to follow suit.

While such ministers will try to make the best of their lonely task, one low-tech solution is apparent: restore people-topeople contact. Talkative checkout staff, bank tellers, bus conductors, grocers, salespeople, airline staff, call centre operators, postal workers, milkmen and the like, perform a social duty that goes beyond their immediate jobs. Many people will be comforted by even that basic human contact; more elaborate health and policy measures can follow.
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