Millions of men have no friends

The Movember Foundation, in conjunction with YouGov, has released new research that has found that millions of men are without close friends to whom they can turn in a crisis.

The survey, undertaken in Britain, found that 51 per cent of participants, or 2.5 million men, have no close friends apart from their partner. And although earlier research suggests that men’s physical and mental health improves when married, being hitched or middle-aged decreased the likelihood of men having someone they can rely on in a serious situation, such as concerns about work, health or money.

It shows that the male culture of independence and stoicism and the commonly-held belief of men having trouble reaching out and making solid social connections may be to blame for this unhealthy situation.

These statistics also support the soaring rate of suicide amongst men, with Australian males being three times more likely than females to take their own lives.

Last year, Movember Australia found that 70 per cent of men were reluctant to reach out when they had issues, preferring instead to ‘suck it up’ and get on with their lives. Men, it seems, are not ones to talk about their problems, finding it especially difficult to discuss emotional issues with their mates.

The research found that 1.1 million Australian men aged between 30 and 65 had very few or no social connections and around one third of them were dissatisfied with the quality of their relationships.

Around 79 per cent of men just don’t feel as if their mates are up to helping them with the serious problems they may face so, rather than discussing them, they don’t bother bringing them up. Add to that the 76 per cent of males who don’t feel emotionally supported, and it becomes a glaring social issue.

“One of the things we see is that men are out of the habit of striking up new friendships,” says the Movember UK Director Sarah Coghlan. “Women are quite comfortable with striking up a new friendship and saying ‘Hi, do you want to go for a glass of wine after work or even see a film next Tuesday’. For men that’s just not socially acceptable in the same way.”

So boys, it may be time to phone a friend or strike up a new friendship today. Go on, what are you waiting for?  

Are you having difficulty with something in your life? Why not call any of these organisations to see if they can help?

Lifeline 131 114  |  beyondblue 1300 224 636  |  MensLine 1300 789 978

Discuss this issue on the BeyondBlue forum.
Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Read more at The Daily Mail.

Opinion: Time to phone a friend

When I read this report, I thought to myself, “hmmm, this sounds familiar”.

I do have what I consider to be friendships, just not so much in the conventional sense of the word.

I have a core group of mates from my school days with whom I catch up once a year. I rarely, if ever, see them more than on this one annual occasion. And yet that one weekend I look forward to every year. I love them and consider them my closest friends and, even though I don’t do it, I feel that I could call on them in times of need. As I said though, I just don’t do it. But I still feel we have a bond that has lasted through the years and, even though I don’t see them that much, I believe we are all very close. So why don’t I see them more often?

To tell the truth, I’m really not sure.

It’s the classic case of school’s out, boy meets girl, boy and girl get married, boy and girl have baby boys and girls – life moves fast and before you know it’s been years since you’ve had time for your mates.

So, yes. It seems that married life can play a part in limiting the amount of time available for social contact. But is that an excuse?

I am one of the lucky ones who can say that their partner is their best friend. She truly is. I can think of no one with whom I’d rather spend time. I can even say that when I have issues with my relationship I can talk to her about it freely and openly and have very little trouble expressing my inner feelings with her. But, as I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.

There are many men out there who simply do not enjoy the same emotional outlet.

That is why it’s so important to have a close knit group of friends, or at least a couple of mates, to whom you can relate. And considering the incidence of depression increases after age 65 – especially for men – friendship is quite possibly as important to your health and wellbeing as you age as eating healthily and exercising regularly.

So, why not treat creating and maintaining friendships with the same vigour?

A phone call once a week is all it may take to maintain social connections that can have a profound ongoing effect in your life. Sharing a hobby, joining a sporting club, volunteering for a cause about which you feel passionate, or simply having a beer at the local all seem like very good excuses to get out and get in touch with friends.

But the trick is actually doing it. And whilst I’m writing this I’m figuring that I too need to heed my own advice. So I’m going to phone a friend or two this afternoon. Will you? 

How many close friends do you have? Do you agree with the Movember survey findings? Do you have difficulty discussing emotional issues with your mates? What prevents you from maintaining male friendships? Have you lost a male friend or family member to suicide? What suggestions do you have for any of our members looking to improve their social connections?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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