DiscoverSocial Distance
Social Distance
Claim Ownership

Social Distance

Author: The Atlantic

Subscribed: 565Played: 11,200


James Hamblin is a doctor. Katherine Wells is not. But she has a lot of questions. Listen in as Jim and Katherine keep in touch with other journalists, experts, and friends about the latest science and health news⁠—and, more important, what to do with it.

Email us with questions, stories, or feedback at

53 Episodes
If you watch the news, the country sounds deeply divided about the coronavirus. But polls show an uncommon unity among Americans. Staff writer James Fallows joins to share some historical perspective and answer the question he’s found himself grappling with across his decades-long career: Is America going to make it?
Jim spent years writing a book on hygiene beliefs and the new science of the skin microbiome. In it, he suggests that some people overuse cleansers and soaps, and may benefit from doing less. But now, there’s a pandemic, and he also really wants to remind people to wash their hands. Jim tries to explain the nuances of good cleaning and bad cleaning—and why he does not shower in the traditional sense.
The president wants to pull the United States out of the WHO. Public health professor Kelley Lee explains what it does and why defunding the world’s main public health body during a pandemic is not a great idea. Plus, Jim shows off his math skills.
There’s promising news around a vaccine, but what does it mean? And should we speed up its development with ‘challenge trials’ by letting vaccinated people be exposed to the virus? Infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Thomas returns to the show to discuss the medical and ethical issues. Also, Katherine faces a minor challenge of her own.
Am I Depressed?

Am I Depressed?


Many of our isolated lives fit the normal criteria for depression, but of course these aren't normal times. So, when the world is this depressing, how do you tell when you're actually depressed? Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Rapke explains how to think through mental health questions in the time of COVID-19.
A video making outlandish and obviously false claims about the coronavirus is making the rounds on the internet. Adrienne LaFrance joins to talk about the psychology of abandoning the factual realm. Check out "Shadowland" from The Atlantic here.
It’s hard to talk about end-of-life care. You should do it anyway. Edo Banach, the President & CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, explains how to create an advance directive — and the best ways to approach the conversation with loved ones.
The Racial Contract

The Racial Contract


The pandemic has made the terms of the “racial contract” visible — but it is a structure that existed long before. Adam Serwer joins to discuss the connection between coronavirus policy and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Read his recent piece in The Atlantic. Note: this week, the show will be publishing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
With most movie theaters closed across the country and no certain timeline for the next big releases, staff writer David Sims gives us recommendations on what to watch.
New rituals and ethical conundrums of dating and socializing are beginning to reveal themselves. Staff writer Joe Pinsker joins to discuss.
Recent news stories raised concerns about multiple ‘strains’ of the coronavirus. Ed Yong joins to explain what’s going on, and why we probably shouldn’t worry right now.
High Risk

High Risk


Caitlin Flanagan on navigating Stage IV cancer during a pandemic. Read her story in The Atlantic.
The economic news is catastrophic. And it’s probably going to get worse. Annie Lowrey joins to talk about why the U.S. didn’t fare as well as other countries, and what it needs to do next. Also, Jim talks about walk poetry.
In many ways, this crisis is unprecedented. But in others, it is not. Gregg Gonsalves became an AIDS activist in the 80s, and is now an epidemiologist working on public health and human rights. He says the history of HIV can offer us warnings -- and some hope.
The Georgia Experiment

The Georgia Experiment


Staff writer and Georgia native Amanda Mull joins to talk about the political forces pushing to reopen her home state.
You Are Worthy of Sleep

You Are Worthy of Sleep


Katherine is worried Jim is endangering himself and needs to sleep more, so she’s holding an intervention. Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry joins to talk about the importance of sleep and how, especially right now, everyone would benefit from prioritizing rest.
Jim and Katherine answer questions from listeners. If you have a question, email us at or leave us a voicemail at 202-642-6487.
What the future of your neighborhood storefront tells us about the outlook for the American city. Derek Thompson joins to explain.
What is the financial toll on those who get sick? And will the pandemic change our healthcare system? Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale professor of public health and economics, joins Jim and Katherine to explain the costs of American medicine and what it would take to bring those costs down.
Staff writers Hannah Giorgis and Spencer Kornhaber join to talk about what the celebrities are up to and whether our fascination with them will survive this.
Comments (5)

Carla Bolton

I LOL when I heard you describe the Imagine song as "trash". I'm absolutely stoked the celebrity ship is sinking 🙌🏻 🛳️

Apr 25th

Mark Powelson

Hmm, six clinical trials are underway across the globe, verdict isnt really in. Front line MDs often make clinical decisions w imperfect data. The fact that chloroquine is 1) based on an 'old' drug is utterly irrelevant (aspirin is ancient; 2) 'mechanism is unknown' also totally irrelevant to effectiveness of to even an FDA approval as surely you both know. Vitamins C and D also being investigated as many antivirals. But practitioners are well acquainted w counterindications and dosage issues of chloroquine and so apparently hundreds of docs have used this relatively safe therapeutic around the world following published reports from China of possible effectiveness in symptomatic relief. Clinical medicine cannot be essarily wait for double-blind controlled studies in a deadly global pandemic, again as you surely know but failed to note. Let's tell the plain truth in a crisis regardless of the obnoxiousness of occupant 1600 Penn Ave, ok?

Apr 10th
Reply (1)


This host is terrible and has the worst voice. Not every white journalist should make a podcast. Blah

Apr 5th


I really love the Atlantic and had high expectations for this podcast. The woman seems totally unprepared and has clearly done no prep work or reading prior to these casts. She asks questions of the guy as if he’s her only source of info. She contributes nothing as the guy even calls her out on in a later cast. Really disappointing from such an esteemed magazine. Listeners would be wise to spend their time catching up on the pandemic with a different cast.

Mar 29th
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store