Dr Manuela Barreto presented at the 58th annual Nobel Conference on Mental Health (In)equity and Young People at Gustavus Adolphus College on 29 September 2022. In this presentation Barreto discussed dominant understandings of loneliness and point out their limitations. She defined loneliness, summarised current scholarship about its causes and consequences, and pointed out the individualistic focus of current knowledge, which tends to miss the social context where loneliness often emerges. She defended the need for a more social understanding of loneliness, as a property of communities rather than of individuals and present studies demonstrating how loneliness emerges in a social context, often as a result of forms of exclusion. The presentation ended with a discussion of the implications of this shift in focus from loneliness as the result of individual deficits to loneliness as a fundamental social justice issue.
Since 1965, the Nobel Conference has been bringing leading researchers and thinkers to Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, to explore revolutionary, transformative and pressing scientific issues and the ethical questions that arise alongside them. As the only event in the United States authorized by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden to use this name, it is its privilege to host a space in which we can talk about big scientific questions, and the big ethical issues to which they inevitably give rise. (Gustavus Adolphus College)