Trending News: Study suggests young men struggle with massive loneliness
A recent survey conducted by YouGov found that men are struggling to make and maintain friendships. Women that participated in the survey reported having trouble making friends also, but their numbers were eclipsed by the extent at which men struggled socially.
12% of women respondents said that they didn’t have any close friends. A staggering 1 in 5 men said the same. 24% of the women in the study said that they lacked a best friend while 32% of men said that they didn’t have a best buddy either.
In addition to those statistics, 44% of men in the study said that they felt lonely all the time. What makes these numbers so alarming is that loneliness can lead to a host of social and mental health problems. Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, shared that in her experience people who are lonely “suffer from higher rates of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, and suicidality.”
To get further clarity on the matter we asked Bart Wolbers, chief science writer for Alexfergus.com , about the physical and mental problems that can occur as a result of loneliness. He noted that “loneliness is associated with several chronic diseases such as heart conditions and diabetes.”
Wolbers went on to say that “additionally, you’re also very prone to experience chronically elevated stress hormone levels such as cortisol and adrenaline. Chronic excess inflammation – which is tied to many modern health conditions – also increasingly becomes present.”
Related: Breaking free from social media
It’s important to note that YouGov’s findings also suggested that millennials are especially prone to loneliness. 3 in 10 millennials say that they often or always feel lonely. 1 in 5 say that they don’t have any friends at all.
This is surprising considering that millennials are the generation that popularized social media. You would think that meant that millennial men are more connected to their peers, but that’s not always the case.
A University of Pennsylvania study found a causal link between social media usage and depression. The more 18 to 22-year olds used social media, the more they experienced anxiety and depression.
So, why are men lonelier now than ever before?
The answer to that question is probably complicated, as complicated as any gender-based issue. However, men might simply be less apt at online communication as their female counterparts. That’s where most of our social interactions take place these days.
Men tend to form social bonds easier when interactions are done through face-to-face encounters. This could be through sports, work life, or simply forming bonds through our peer groups growing up.
Nowadays, there are fewer opportunities for men to form these face-to-face bonds. There’re also the pressures of adult life which can make social time harder to pencil in for men.
You get bogged down with work and family responsibilities, so much so, that you neglect to maintain the social ties from your youth.
As an adult male, you simply can’t make new friends as easy as you could when you were younger. I experienced this firsthand when I took my 3-year-old son to the playground.
He simply walked up to a group of boys on the swing set and said, “I like Transformers.” The group of boys giggled, and they all played together for the entire afternoon. If only I could do the same at the local bar.
How can the loneliness crisis be averted or minimized?
Maybe we’re just overthinking things. Maybe finding friends isn’t that difficult at all. Bart Wolbers doesn’t seem to think so.
Wolbers says, “young men *must realize *that they’re in a perfect position to deal with the problem. The biggest issue with young men is that they don’t realize they hold all the power and can resolve the issue reasonably well and quickly.”
He goes on to say, “as a young man, it’s a very small step to join a new gym, move to a new location, start a new educational program, or get a new job.
There’s basically almost no reason why you would *not *be able to build new social relationships and friendships if you put your mind to it.”
Honestly, I believe that’s oversimplifying the issue. Joining a new gym or getting a new job might put you in front of new people, but that’s no guarantee that you have the social skills required to convert those new faces into new friends.
Dr. Carla Marie Manly points to technology as the lynchpin for better social interactions. She says that “the loneliness crisis can be averted by striving to connect with people on a face-to-face level.
When we connect with technology more than we connect with other humans, we will naturally feel alone. This creates a vicious cycle where young men (and many other demographic groups) self-isolate unconsciously due to overuse of technology.”
Again, I notice that these solutions seem oversimplified. In my personal experience, shutting off the computer and talking to an actual human being on the commute home from work made me look like a weirdo.
All I said was “it’s raining cats and dogs out there.” The guy next to me gave a curt nod of the head and leaned deeper into his own smartphone.
I thought back to my 3-year-old son and his success with making friends on the playground. He likes Transformers and apparently so did the other boys that he spoke with. They shared a common interest that allowed them to feel comfortable interacting with one another.
It occurred to me that common interests could be the key to making new adult friends. If you can join an interest group, even if it’s online, then you might have an easier time making friends.
By expressing your own interests openly, you invite other people to engage with you who have something in common. That leads to conversation and in the long-term it could lead to a lasting friendship.
Or as Dr. Manly put it, “this can only be done with effort-by creating social groups, joining existing groups, and making the problem known without feeling ashamed.”
Do you struggle to find friends? What do you think is the biggest reason why men have trouble connecting with their peers? We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.