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Why brief encounters matter

Take a moment to chat… Getty

“Human connection is the best preventative medicine,” says Noreena Hertz in The Sunday Times. That’s why it matters that rail firms are closing ticket offices at train stations. Technology, which is meant to make our lives better, is denying us the daily contact with others that is as essential to health and happiness as exercise and food. “To understand why, you have to travel back to our hunter-gatherer origins.” Because humans can only survive in groups, our bodies have evolved to react in a “host of negative ways” to a lack of socialising. “Our blood pressure, cortisol levels and heart rate all shoot up when we’re lonely.”

You may not think “brief encounters” at ticket offices help much. “But they do”. Researchers have found that even a 30-second chat with the barista in a coffee shop makes you feel happier. Last week, a Japanese study showed that social interaction makes the brain more “voluminous” and less likely to develop dementia. And it’s no good just blaming companies. Each of us – ordering Deliveroo, working from home, doing yoga with Adriene on YouTube – bears some responsibility. The result is that today’s youth are the “loneliest generation” yet. So take a minute to chat to the lady in the post office; call your friends instead of messaging them; and next time you’re queuing for your train ticket, consider “asking the elderly person in front of you if they need some help.”