What every architect should know about loneliness

An illustration by Make Architects Frank Filskow showing how centralised shared spaces might be realised

Social isolation is as deadly as smoking. How can design bring people together in meaningful ways?

Is loneliness a growing problem? The evidence is unclear when it comes to percentages, but with the global population both rising and ageing, loneliness has become a more visible issue than ever. And there’s no question that it’s a hot-button social concern.

The Future Spaces Foundation recently published a report on the relationship between urban loneliness and the built environment, focusing on the ways we can reshape infrastructure in cities to promote social cohesion. Here’s what we learned during our research, and how architects can help.

Loneliness is a major public health issue.

The medical establishment links loneliness to higher risks for heart disease, depression, eating disorders and cognitive decline. According to one study, it’s as dangerous as heavy smoking, upping your risk of premature death by nearly 30%. These health consequences have a significant impact on the global economy, both in terms of healthcare spending and costs to employers. Tackling this issue should very much be in architects’ interest, given the influence that considered design can have on people’s health, social ties and lived experience.

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