MENTAL HEALTH

Studies show men experience high rates of loneliness

Apr 3, 2024, 6:00 AM

Do men experience higher rates of loneliness than women?  Some studies seem to hint at a rise in f...

Do men experience higher rates of loneliness than women?  Some studies seem to hint at a rise in feelings of loneliness for men. (Canva)

(Canva)

Do men experience higher rates of loneliness than women? 

Some studies seem to hint at a rise in feelings of loneliness for men. 

According to the Survey Center on American Life, men’s social circles are shrinking. Thirty years ago, 55% of men reported having at least 6 close friends. In 2021, that number halved: only 27% of men reported having a close circle of friends. The study also describes that 1 in 5 men said they get emotional support from friends. That’s compared to 4 in 10 women. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said between 2020 and 2021, there was an 8% increase in suicide rates for men aged 15 to 24. 

An expert’s advice

Licensed psychologist Dr. Tom Golightly said there are also multiple, more anecdotal factors that could lead to an epidemic of male loneliness. 

He told Dave and Dujanavic: many parents raise their daughters and sons differently.

“There are gender differences in how we parent emotional expression, even early on,” he said. 

He described a specific scenario: if you think about a child falling off a bike, many parents would scoop their daughter up, tell her they can go inside, wash off their injury and even put on a princess band-aid. When it comes to their sons, he said many parents tell them to get back on the bike. 

“What we’re teaching our child in that moment is you know… little girl, let’s honor your pain, let’s think about it, let’s process it, let’s take care of it. To the boy we’re saying ‘you shouldn’t feel that, get up and go.'”

This type of parenting can really make a difference in how different genders perceive and process emotion. 

Golightly said those attitudes persist into adulthood and can cause an emotional stagnation in men. 

So, how do we get emotional responses out of men? 

 “Small steps are actually really, really big steps to men,” Golightly said. “I think what sometimes we’re asking of men is give me a big disclosure right away…. but be patient and be consistent.”

He said a lot of times, time spent with each other is the most important thing we can do. 

He also said to combat loneliness, for both genders, it’s important to “fill our wells.” 

“If we’re an empty well, we’re not going to be doing any good for anyone around us,” he said.

He suggested intentionality in taking care of ourselves, to take the time to refill our mental, social and emotional stamina. 

“I think having a structure and being intentional about regular, daily self care…. that’s really going to be an important structure for improving mental health and having enough in the tank for the people around us as well,” he said. 

Ultimately, Golightly said, we are all trying to figure it out, “even though the roles we play are varied.” 

What’s really important, is that we take time for ourselves, and time to lend a listening ear when people need it. 

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Studies show men experience high rates of loneliness