Christine Doyle | Lost Connections – Johann Hari
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Lost Connections – Johann Hari

I have always been a buyer of self-help / positive psychology / social research books. A big buyer but
not always so big a reader. This year I have set myself the challenge to read one such book every
month and review it in the hope that it may be of benefit to some of you. “Lost Connections” by
Johann Hari was the first book in this challenge. The many commendations on the cover of the book
drew me to it and the promise for solutions around the allusive problem of depression that affects
so many of us had me sold. Hari has received criticism for this book, where some feel he is
dangerously encouraging people to come away from anti-depressants. I do not ascribe to this view
of the book. Hari notes that, for some, antidepressants can offer a relief but, he asserts, there are
many other anti-depressants available than those found in a pharmacy.
To understand these other ‘antidepressants’ or, the promised solutions that beguiled me when I first
picked up the book, we need to look at the causes of depression. Depression has long been touted
as a chemical imbalance of the brain. If it is a chemical imbalance, then it is logical that a chemical
pill would right this wrong – right? Well only if the wrong is right – are you still with me?! Professor
Andrew Skull of Princeton has said that attributing depression to low serotonin is “deeply misleading
and unscientific”. If it were true, those suffering from depression and who took anti-depressants
would no longer be depressed but in the experience of the author and in my own experience, this is
rarely the case. Our depressed are not getting better, they are becoming more depressed. So if the
cause is not a chemical cause – what could it be? Hari believes and displays through extensive
research what he believes to be the main cause of depression in our society – lost connections.
Lost Connections states that depression is the result of a natural feeling following a loss of
connection, a grief for that connection you may say. The most evident disconnections from his
research are each outlined in a chapter of their own, making them very readable and easily
digestible. They range from disconnection from meaningful work, to disconnection from other
people to a disconnection from meaningful values. This is not one man’s opinion but rather a result
of thorough research into a phenomenon that has affected so many of his nearest and dearest. This
is not flaky research, but based on validated studies from Harvard, Cambridge and Princeton to
name just a few.
The second half of the book delivers on its promise – it offers solutions to the disconnections cited in
the first half of the book. Hari offers that we consider these reconnections as another
antidepressant. A pill may certainly provide relief but unfortunately it won’t make the depressed
person feel less depressed if the cause remains unchanged. This book challenges the junk values and
materialism that have been exalted in the modern world and encourages an awareness of and a
return to the connections that we have lost, the connections that have caused this deep sadness in
so many of us.
“You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met”
I would like to highlight that I have no medical training and am not equipped to defend / dismiss
antidepressants. I can only speak from my viewpoint and, in doing so, I remain deeply respectful of
and open to the viewpoints of others. In my personal and professional experience I have seen little
or no improvement in those who take antidepressants without looking at what caused the pain in

the first place. This is a highly emotive book and will incite many conversations and I would sincerely
recommend it to anyone who has experience of / an interest in depression.
Next Book: The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz