We're more technologically connected than ever - yet despite and because of online activities, we also face a loneliness epidemic. Researchers have linked loneliness to decreased mental health, increased illness and even premature death.

A study last year found nearly one in three older New Zealanders spend their days alone.

Bay of Plenty Times Weekend writer Dawn Picken found it's not just elderly people battling isolation - younger residents are also struggling to find connection, with one local man saying seclusion nearly led him to suicide. How can we curb loneliness? And how can we bridge the chasm between unhappy solitude and contended camaraderie?

Alone Again (Naturally)

"What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry: like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast." - Olivia Laing, The Lonely City

Graeme asked we use only his first name. He's reserved and doesn't like the limelight, but would love company. Graeme's in his early 60s, but isn't working due to a traffic injury.

He says he survives on a pension while battling frustration and ACC.

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"It's led to deterioration which makes it very difficult to go out with a physical and mental condition and nerve damage. I've

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