- Posted by Jon Harju
- On June 12, 2019
Thanks to technology, we live in the most connected age in history, but somehow we’re facing a social crisis from isolation and poor social connections.
Vivek Murthy, former US Surgeon General, identifies the most common threat to modern public health is not cancer, heart disease, diabetes or obesity — but in fact, loneliness.
Loneliness is certainly not gendered, however, men, in particular, tend to struggle with maintaining friendships and building new ones as their life progresses.
The truth about adulthood loneliness and its impact on mental health
A study found that 46% of Americans report feeling lonely sometimes or always.
Murthy views loneliness as a public health crisis. He wrote that isolation and weak social connections “are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety.”
Friendships are rarely an issue in our earlier years. However, as adults, we find ourselves working more, committing to serious relationships, beginning to have our own families — all of which end up taking priority over time spent with our friends.
One of the biggest hurdles to building new friendships is time, which thanks to modern-day life is an increasingly rare commodity for many of us.
In fact, a recent study estimated that, on average, it takes about 90 hours of time with someone before you consider them a real friend, and 200 to become “close.”
The male loneliness epidemic
Researchers from Harvard Medical School observed that it was common for men to form closer bonds with their spouses at the expense of other social connections.
Men tend to lose the connections they have with male friends and don’t seem to work as hard at making new friends, depriving them of the fundamental social ties — that have shown to increase happiness, cope with trauma, and increase longevity.
Men struggle to talk about personal stuff and their mental health
Culture has heavily influenced boys and men to be ‘strong’ and not show vulnerability to others. Men are reluctant to ask for support, consequently preventing them from reaching out to other men when they’re struggling.
A common thread with lonely men is a lack of close friendships. Most guys would rather talk about anything other than what’s going on inside, but because of toxic male constructs, they fear being judged. They find it easier to talk about sport or politics than to admit to suffering from a low sex drive or feeling undervalued at work. Men often don’t know who to share these issues with, or how to even have that conversation as their social structures function differently to women’s. According to a study in the journal Plos One, male friendships are more likely to flourish in groups, whereas women favour one-to-one interactions.
3 ways men can create new social connections:
1. Make a commitment by registering for a male-only activity, sport, or club — this ensures socializing with your peers is part of your routine and it can help support and build up their social confidence along with facilitating authentic connections. These type of events have a chance to act as a ‘bridge’ to other friendship groups (both male and mixed) helping encourage men to engage in other activities.
2. Get involved in a cause. Collaboratively working on a good cause gives men a chance to enjoy being a part of a team outside of their work or family circles.
3. Be open to saying ‘yes’ when invited to the next poker game, woodworking seminar, amateur barbecuing class or baseball tournament.
Talking shoulder to shoulder to enhance mental wellness
A key and recurring phrase in the discussion of men’s socialization is Men don’t talk face to face. They talk shoulder to shoulder.
The best way for men to forge and maintain friendships is through built-in regularity. By having a regular social gathering or social opportunity that is built into their schedule, as a definite date marked on the calendar, men will likely participate, enjoy and successfully connect with others.
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