In recent years, a loneliness epidemic has swept across many countries, with devastating impacts on health, wellbeing, and society. Studies show that over half of Americans report feeling lonely frequently or almost all the time.

This crisis has dire consequences. Loneliness carries the same mortality risks as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It's linked to anxiety, depression, dementia, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and more. The mental health impacts are equally alarming, correlated with self-harm, addiction, and suicide.

Socially isolated individuals also become more prone to join extremist groups that promise belonging, indicating the dangers loneliness poses to civic life and democracy.

A world of disconnection

According to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, loneliness has reached epidemic levels in the United States and has become a top public health concern. He listed loneliness as a key priority for his office, signaling the gravity of this issue.

58% of U.S. adults are considered lonely (Cigna study)

36% of Americans reported feeling serious loneliness frequently or almost all the time in late 2020, up from 25% pre-pandemic (Making Caring Common survey)

Loneliness afflicts all major demographic groups - it's not confined to any one race, gender, education level, or location.

The health impacts of loneliness are far-reaching according to substantial research. A lack of social connection carries risks comparable to smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity in terms of mortality, according to researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad.

Loneliness is associated with:

Anxiety, depression, heart disease, dementia, stroke, addiction, domestic violence and more

A weakened immune system and increased risk of early death

Higher risk of self-harm, suicide, and joining conspiracy or extremist groups

Meanwhile, screen time continues to skyrocket as ever-smarter algorithms learn how to manipulate us better. The convenience and instant gratification of online life provides an increasing temptation to retreat from participating in society altogether.

The good news

Fortunately, while the challenges are daunting, the solutions are plentiful and hopeful.

Across communities worldwide, people are coming together to forge bonds through shared interests, support groups, volunteering, civic participation, and more. Entrepreneurs are creating innovative spaces and programs to foster human connection. Leaders are advocating for policies that strengthen social infrastructure.

This site aims to celebrate these stories. I share real-world examples of gatherings, traditions, spaces, and engagement that fulfill our core need for connection.

Most importantly, this is not just meant for passive consumption: 

My aim is to instigate you to take action to foster a greater sense of connection in yourself and the world around you. 

The best solutions for loneliness are ones that are freely available. You can start applying them in your world today. 

This is a solvable problem

We believe that when people are exposed to positive models of belonging in action, it empowers us to bring those ideas to life in our own lives. A few sparks of inspiration can ignite change on a broader scale.

Belongfulness aims to shine light on the people who are making that change a reality.

  • Profiles of people and communities finding new ways to foster belonging through gatherings, traditions, spaces, programs, and policies
  • Ideas and resources for how you can cultivate more belonging in your own life and community
  • Perspectives from experts studying loneliness and social isolation
  • Updates on new research, innovations, and solutions addressing this crisis

Join us as we share stories from around the world of people pioneering new ways to foster belonging. Let's take part in this movement together, starting with small steps in our own lives.

Hi, I’m Tony Bacigalupo.

Since I was young, I’ve been searching for ways to feel more connected to the world around me. I saw how suburban sprawl, a lack of gathering places, and fraying social fabric were making it harder and harder to build meaningful relationships with our neighbors and our neighborhoods. 

Entering post-college adulthood, I witnessed something that opened me up to a world of possibility: simple programs that could grow organically, via the internet, all around the world. 

It started for me in 2007 with Jelly, a casual coworking club that operated out of a loft apartment in midtown Manhattan. When its co-founder, Amit Gupta, opened up the idea for anyone to try anywhere, the idea quickly spread to hundreds of cities. 

Many of those early communities led to permanent coworking spaces, which have gone on to become cornerstones of their neighborhoods. 

I saw this happening at an even bigger scale with the coworking movement. From every corner of the earth, people were collaborating online, sharing tips and resources, and gathering at formal and informal conferences. 

I was hooked.

After getting active in local Meetup groups in NYC, I ended up leading the charge to open New Work City—Manhattan’s first coworking space—in 2008. The workspace was only a part of what New Work City had to offer—it was home to dozens of Meetup groups and experimental gatherings, and acted as a beacon for anyone looking to get out of the house and be around other interesting and creative people. 

It was my own personal laboratory for experimenting with developing new forms of community and gathering. 

We caught the media cycle, getting written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Entrepreneur Magazine and many more—even a cover appearance on Inc. Magazine. 

In 2015, I adapted what I learned from running that space into a toolkit and mastermind program, helping thousands of people build similar spaces in their cities. 

A talk I gave at a conference in 2016

That led to more work helping people build communities in general, online and in person. 

You can find more about me on my personal site, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Where to from here

Now, I’m focused on understanding the issues of loneliness and disconnection—and what the best solutions might look like. 

I’m looking for where I can apply what I’ve learned, and the role the global coworking movement can play in fostering more connected cities and neighborhoods. 

For now, that means producing a State of Belonging 2023 report and a podcast (and video series). Eventually, that may mean producing products and educational materials. 

If you’re here, then you’re a part of the story now. 

I’d love to learn more about you and what brings you here.

Subscribe for updates and reach out!