Feb 6, 2012, 1:15 PM, Posted by Eric Klinenberg
Eric Klinenberg, PhD, is a professor of sociology at New York University and the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. He is the author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” which examines a fast-growing trend of people in the United States living alone.
Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to look at this topic?
Eric Klinenberg: The first book I wrote was about a catastrophic heat wave in Chicago that killed more than 700 people in 1995. One of the most powerful and disturbing features of the event was that hundreds of people died alone and were discovered hours, or in some cases days, after they perished. I became aware of how pervasive aging alone had become and grew very concerned about the health problems of social isolation. Through the RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, I was able to do more work on the topic. Their support was completely essential.
When I started doing research on the bigger issue of living alone, I realized that what I had studied in Chicago was its bleakest aspect. Social isolation is a big problem, and one that deserves far more attention and resources than we give it today. But I also realized that there’s much more to living alone than being isolated. Living alone and being alone are very different things. And Going Solo calls for a more sharp distinction between them.