Recent research shows that men are lonelier than ever. Only 27% of men say they have 6 close friends (this number is half what it was 30 years ago). Further, 15% of men say they have no close friends at all (up an astounding 500% since 1990).
Why do these numbers matter? First, studies suggest that loneliness is a significant factor in developing depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that clinical depression is something an estimated 6 million men live with each year in this country. Since depression in men often goes undiagnosed and, thus, untreated, we need to explore the causes of male loneliness to assess how it might impact mental health over time. This becomes even more critical when we consider that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of death in men.
Read on to learn more about men and loneliness. We’ll explore the link between loneliness and depression and share coping techniques that can help if you or a man you care about is affected by male loneliness.
Table of Contents
Causes of Loneliness in Men
The causes of loneliness in men are often complex and varied. Some factors have deep roots. Others may seem superficial on the surface, but they still significantly impact the intensity of loneliness a man might be experiencing.
Lack of close friendships
It’s not uncommon for older men to struggle with making close friends — especially after college. This may be because of societal expectations that encourage them to focus on things like their career and achieving financial success, which might leave less time to socialize and develop deep and meaningful relationships with a new friend.
Before this point in life, social networks were generally abundant and a consistent source that offered easy friendships and meaningful, rewarding connections. Without access to these, feelings of isolation can creep in and cause loneliness.
Societal pressure and expectations cause men to feel like they have no choice but to be strong and independent. The tough guy image resulting from masculine norms discourages some men from expressing their emotional needs or desires. This can quickly lead to emotional isolation — even for those men with people in their lives who care deeply about them.
Not being willing or able to open up
Some research suggests that many men have a hard time discussing their feelings of loneliness. Unfortunately, being unwilling to open up may stifle deep connections with others and exacerbate loneliness. Plus, these societal expectations may prevent a lonely man from investing in a new friendship or opening up to a close friend. The stigma associated with shame or embarrassment over feeling lonely may be another driver.
Career pressure and stress
The pursuit of career success may be a culprit that causes some men to sacrifice personal relationships or hobbies that could help reduce male loneliness.
Even men in romantic relationships might feel lonely if their partners shut down because they’re tired of feeling like they come second to the time and energy a man puts in at the office.
Mental health conditions
Several mental health conditions have been linked to loneliness in men. As discussed, loneliness is directly associated with the onset of depression, according to multiple studies and research.
More than 8% of adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the last year — and while depression is slightly more prevalent in women, more than 6% of men experienced symptoms of depression. Depression causes some men to withdraw from social interactions, further increasing feelings of loneliness.
“Loneliness can be a significant prompt for depression. When individuals feel isolated and disconnected from others, they may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. Over time, these emotions can intensify into clinical depression if not addressed.”
The Impact on Mental Health
It’s clear that loneliness takes a silent toll on men’s mental health that results in conditions like depression or anxiety. In extreme cases, loneliness can even lead to suicidal ideation or acts in both young and older adults.
While we’ve already touched on the idea that loneliness can manifest as depression — this is about more than just “feeling blue” or down. Depression often impacts every aspect of life.
Isolation can create feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in men. Over time, these feelings may spiral into clinical depression, sparking an exhausting cycle that’s almost impossible to break free from without professional help.
Research also shows that chronic loneliness can be a predictor of anxiety. Fearful thoughts about being alone forever, or feeling like an outcast feeds an anxious mindset. Especially for men, who are taught from a young age that being male means being strong, it can be challenging to ask for help when dealing with loneliness-related anxiety.
In very severe cases, persistent loneliness pushes some men toward contemplating death by suicide as they desperately seek an escape from the emotional pain they’re experiencing. This is why it’s so crucial to recognize and address male loneliness before symptoms escalate.
“The connection between male loneliness and suicide is influenced by social, cultural, and psychological factors. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach that includes reducing stigma, promoting emotional well-being, and fostering supportive communities and relationships. It’s essential to recognize the signs of unhappiness in men and provide them with the help and support they need to prevent suicide.”
Coping Strategies for Men Dealing with Loneliness
A major study found that when social isolation is experienced long-term, it substantially increases the risk of premature death. This is yet another reason why it’s so critical to find coping techniques when men are so lonely. The following strategies can help men learn to manage the adverse outcomes loneliness causes.
Connect with others
Sometimes feeling lonely makes reaching out and connecting with others difficult. Connection, though, is essential to overcoming feelings of isolation.
Try joining a club or sports team. A mutually shared interest may bridge gaps and spark conversations that might develop into meaningful relationships. As you connect with others in these new circles, it’s important to be open and willing to share your emotions. Vulnerability can encourage others to reciprocate and deepen relationships.
Try focusing on things like regularly exercising to boost your mood, developing better sleep patterns, and eating well.
These are the things that play a significant role in maintaining emotional balance and, ultimately, help reduce feelings of loneliness.
In the digital age we live in, technology offers several avenues that can help men deal with loneliness. Online support groups and therapy platforms make getting help and connecting with others easier than ever. Virtual communities offer comfort and remind you that you’re not alone in your struggle.
Get professional help
If your chronic loneliness is too much, it might be time to seek professional help. Therapy and counseling provides tools and tips to manage your emotions effectively.
Treatment is about more than just talking about being lonely. Therapeutic sessions offer benefits such as:
- Learning anxiety management techniques help you gain control over irrational fears, preventing you from making positive social connections with others.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify and challenge negative thought processes that might encourage an inclination toward isolation.
- Solution-focused therapy guide you to a place where you begin to establish and nurture meaningful connections in all areas of your life.
Mental Health Support for Men
Dealing with loneliness alone is really hard. Finding the courage to seek help might be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do in life — this is one of the reasons that loneliness in men has been referred to as a silent battle.
The good news is that even though the road to healing can be difficult, you don’t have to walk it alone. Talkspace is an online therapy platform that offers tools to help you navigate those lonely days and overcome feelings of isolation.
Talkspace provides easy access to therapists who can support you as you address your loneliness. Simply acknowledging that you’re lonely is the first step toward overcoming it. Take action against your loneliness by starting therapy today. You’ll learn to identify negative, unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that contribute to how you feel. From there, you’ll be empowered to build healthy, positive relationships that are mutually rewarding.
Loneliness doesn’t have to define you — there are options to overcome it, and Talkspace can help. Reach out today to learn more about how you can beat male loneliness.
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