When I recorded Episode 28, Friends Are The Family We Choose, I spoke from the assumption that everybody has a bunch of friends. Like most women, I have multiple circles of friends including an inner circle and then dozens of close friends, an army of sometime friends, and then a huge pool of acquaintances that I just haven’t gotten to know better… yet.
I think this is pretty common for women. We can make a new friend in line at the grocery store, a ladies room at a concert, or on a committee at church or our kids school. It is in our genes.
Not so much for men, and it’s bad for their health, both physical and mental. According to one study of male cancer patients, survival rates can be predicted by the number of the patient’s close relationships. In reading the research, some studies report up to 30% of middle age men having not one close friend with whom they can share their struggles. To make matters worse, the average 45 year old woman demotes her spouse from her most important relationship to number 2, after her daughter or other female friend. Ouch.
In the podcast, I spoke about how I warn my dating friends that learning a man has no close friends should be a big red flag (big as a barn) that this guy should be avoided and conversely, a man with many friends is a better bet.
Funded by the Movember Foundation, the Men’s Social Connectedness report shows that there is a clear relationship between lack of social connectedness and psychological distress. The survey revealed that an alarming 79% of men believe that their friends wouldn’t be able to help them deal with the personal issues they may be facing so they would be unlikely to bring it up. The importance of good communication between father and son was also highlighted as a protective factor from social disconnectedness in later life.
Here are more significant findings from the report:
- Men aged 35 – 54 are at the greatest risk of isolation
- Nearly 1 in 4 men experience low levels of social support and may be at-risk of isolation
- 25% of men have no one outside of their immediate family that they can rely on
- More than 1 in 3 men are not satisfied with the quality of their relationships, mainly because they do not feel emotionally connected or supported
- Up to 59% are not satisfied with how much they feel like a member of the community
- Up to 45% are not satisfied with the number of friends and acquaintances they have
The majority of men surveyed did not realize the importance and impact that a lack of social support or loneliness can have on their lives. 70% of men believed that problems were part of life and were something you just have to deal with. However, many men want to open up to their friends but find it difficult to start the conversation, or they don’t know how to respond when friends open up to them. – Movember Foundation
So, what to do?
Men need to be reaching out to other men, inviting them to join them in activities; yes, men need an activity. Think of the quiet guy at work, your shy brother-in-law, the neighbor that never seems to leave their apartment.
Women need to loosen the reigns on a partner who has an opportunity to go out with the guys. For heaven’s sake, do NOT arrange a play date for your husband, but encourage him to follow up with your friend’s guy after a group outing.
Loneliness and isolation increase not only depression and obesity rates, but suicide rates. This lonely stuff is nothing short of deadly!
I would love to read your comments on how we, all of us, can help men in this area. As a pretty extroverted woman, this topic baffles me.
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