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The effect of isolation on Australian men | Men's mental health

31 May, 2017
Lonely man

No man is an island – but the stats suggest that an alarming number of Aussie men are feeling lonely. 

What we know about men's loneliness

  • Almost ¼ of men aged 30-65 (~ 1 million) are at risk of isolation
  • 25% of men have no one outside of their immediate family to rely on
  • 37% report they’re not satisfied with the quality of their relationships
  • 61% have lost contact with more friends than they would have liked to
  • 50% of men rarely talk about deep personal issues with friends
  • 31% don’t spend much time talking to their friends in general

Source: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/research-project-files/bw0276-mens-social-connectedness-final.pdf?sfvrsn=4

Are men lonelier than women?

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of research on how loneliness impacts men and women differently. There are studies that suggest that, at the very least, university/young adult aged males feel lonelier than their female counterparts. Two of these studies, ‘The lonely college male’ and ‘Gender differences in loneliness and depression of university students seeking counselling’, showed that men were 10% more likely to feel an ‘intense sense of loneliness’. 

The latter study says the significantly different data between the sexes comes down to:

  • Fewer males being in an emotional relationship
  • Being unable to find a romantic partner
  • Inability or difficulty making friends
  • Self-reported lower esteem (thinking that they are ‘losers’)
  • Higher levels of alcohol consumption

It doesn’t seem to get better with age either – one study shows that unmarried men and widowers are lonelier, while another shows older men are more socially isolated, have less contact with loved ones and are beginning to outlive their partners.

Why are men lonelier?

Men are more harshly judged for being lonelier and less likely to admit they’re lonely

There are several possible factors, the foremost of which is that men are less likely to admit they’re lonely in the first place. This same study found that subjects participating were more likely to be ‘rejecting’ of lonely males in comparison to females, which begs the question of which comes first: the rejection or the unwillingness to admit feelings of loneliness?

It’s been hypothesised that this difference may be caused by societal expectations of men to be ‘tougher’ or to show more resilience and independence.

Men need more friends, more activities, and more often

Another barrier is a combination of time, energy and organisation. A study (commissioned by Guinness, no less) showed there were health benefits to guys meeting up with three or four of their close friends twice a week, another study showing men tend to seek clubs as opposed to intense one-on-one relationships.

It follows that the chance to form this kind of bond is harder due to restrictions on time and energy.

Men rely on their partners for social interactions

Further, males follow the cues of their female partners’ social interactions. From Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age:

“In general, men rely more heavily on their partner to remain socially connected. When their partner dies, often a man’s social life shrinks.”

The previously mentioned Beyond Blue study similarly states that:

“Men living with a partner (regardless of whether this was with or without children) are significantly less likely to rate lack of social support/isolation as an issue (mean 3.8) than other groups (men living on their own - 4.3, living with friends - 4.5, and living with parents/family - 4.4).”

Support for Australian men

Here are some of the support programs specially designed to tackle men’s loneliness:

Australian Men’s Shed Association – www.mensshed.org

It’s all in the name – the Men’s Shed Association is all about building, whether it’s furniture or friendships. With over 985 locations around Australia, chances are there’s a shed near you.

Mens Line - https://www.mensline.org.au/

Men’s Line is a phone and online support service that offers ‘male-friendly’ counselling that can ensure you privacy and anonymity. It also features an active forum where men come together to give each other advice, guidance and support.

Man Therapy https://www.mantherapy.org.au

Man Therapy is an initiative put forth by Beyond Blue to help men understand and respond to their depression. Described as a toolkit, it gives men strategies and guidance on how to approach and cope with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

 

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.

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