Men who lack a strong social network are more likely to suffer health issues like a stroke or depression, research has found.
Initiative beyondblue, which raises awareness for mental health problems like anxiety, found that males who are facing isolation and loneliness as they head into middle age are five times more at risk of dying from the problems mentioned above, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease.
They are also more prone to psychological distress, as they have no one to discuss their feelings and thoughts with. A report by beyondblue found 25 per cent of 30 men, aged 65, had no one aside from their immediate family to rely on. On top of this, 37 per cent reported not being happy with the strength and quality of their relationships, and often felt they weren’t supported or connected enough emotionally.
“Many men want greater openness with their friends and to be able to talk about personal problems, but admit they don’t always have the skills or tools to initiate these conversations, or understand how to respond when a friend opens up to them,” researchers shared.
Dr Stephen Carbone, head of the project, explained that social support is used as a protective mechanism against mental health issues like depression, and that it proves valuable in diffusing stressful situations.
While Dr Carbone notes it’s not every middle-aged man will suffer such grievances, he does believe they will do better in the long run with friends.
So why are friendships difficult as men get older? Issues such as expectations and cultural norms associated with masculinity were identified, though these do not provide a proper explanation.
“There are nuances below that, such as changes in family circumstances, or financial issues, or changes in work, or people moving away from where they grew up, or middle-aged men not keeping up with sport and losing contact with that group of friends,” Dr Carbone added on other aspects that may play a big part in this subject.
His words of advice: don’t stop making the effort. Social networks need to be kept alive by regular contact, even if the man in question is feeling sluggish and tired after a long day at work.
Another expert, Dr Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist and men’s mental health specialist, urges men to open up more too, and says that males should never compare their bonds to women’s.