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Them

Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal

By Ben Sasse
12-minute read
Audio available
Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal by Ben Sasse

Them (2018) explores the social, political and economic challenges facing the United States of America. Drawing on insights from psychology, politics and contemporary media, the blinks investigate the current climate of hostility in public life and explains how Americans can get back to a more harmonious way of life.

  • Political animals looking for a fresh perspective
  • Democrats open to listening to the other side
  • Current-affairs junkies wanting new insights

Ben Sasse is a United States senator and a member of the Republican party. He holds a Ph.D. in American history from Yale University.

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Them

Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal

By Ben Sasse
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal by Ben Sasse
Synopsis

Them (2018) explores the social, political and economic challenges facing the United States of America. Drawing on insights from psychology, politics and contemporary media, the blinks investigate the current climate of hostility in public life and explains how Americans can get back to a more harmonious way of life.

Key idea 1 of 7

Loneliness is a killer, and men are particularly at risk.

Americans are growing further and further apart, feeling rejected by their fellow countrymen on a daily basis. A death following the experience of rejection is a common theme in classic novels and plays. Just consider the lonely end of Shakespeare’s King Lear, or the dramatic demise of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina after becoming convinced she is no longer loved. Though these deaths are fiction, Tolstoy and Shakespeare had a valid point: loneliness is a killer.

Unlike in classic literature, when real people perish from social rejection, they rarely die a sudden, dramatic death. Instead, the effects of loneliness add up over time, weakening their brains and bodies and sending them to an early grave.

For example, through the use of fMRI scans, neurologists have discovered that our reaction to social rejection activates the same region of the brain as physical distress. In other words, we mentally process loneliness in the same way we do actual pain. This means that loneliness also results in the same health effects as chronic pain, such as a lower functioning of the immune system, more stress hormones shooting around our body and greater risk of heart disease.

Given all these risks of loneliness, it is not surprising that lonely individuals report a higher rate of sickness, need longer recovery times and suffer more heart attacks. Additionally, researchers at the University of Chicago found that emotional distress speeds up the aging process, and there is evidence that lonely people are at greater risk of dementia.

Significantly, although loneliness and social rejection can strike anyone, research suggests that men are particularly at risk.

One American study that looked at 67,000 men found that unmarried individuals under 45 years of age had a much higher probability of dying during any given period than their married male counterparts. Furthermore, elderly men have been found to have higher rates of loneliness than any other demographic in the United States.

Interestingly, research suggests that men are more likely to suffer loneliness than women because men have a greater tendency to stop making new friends once they get married or begin climbing the career ladder. Consequently, for most adult males, their partner and their children are their gateways to any wider community. Therefore, if these two things are absent in their lives, either because they never married or had children or due to the death of a spouse, as is the case for many older males, then their social networks quickly vanish. And loneliness rushes in.

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