Monday, March 2, 2015

Why being lonely may be deadly for aging men?

Loneliness is actually a health risk. If you allow people to suffer from loneliness, it has the equivalent impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is as big a risk as obesity.

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age

Fat Wallets but No Friends

Men grow lonelier and sadder as they age, whereas women’s self-satisfaction accelerates, writes psychotherapist Thomas Joiner in a new advice book to help men fight loneliness, a condition that creeps up over time, “a lot like hair loss.” The condition of loneliness is not just psychologically detrimental; its health effects can be as fatal as cancer and obesity, reports Joiner, suggesting it is associated with “less restorative sleep” and “decreased functioning of the immune system.” In a study of middle-aged men in Sweden, “having a close attachment to just one person, like a spouse, did not confer much protection against heart attack and death due to heart disease. But having multiple friendships did.”

Joiner theorizes that men sustain fewer friendships than women do in part because they are more narcissistic and self-centered. “Men seem to be under the impression that friendships will always be provided for them, just as they were in grade school.”

Also, men, more than women, focus on attaining wealth and status, neglecting relationships. “A lucky few can get by on the friendships they made back in the day. However, many cannot, and over time, men drift away from friendships and simultaneously earn money and status. This leaves them puzzled indeed—they spent years achieving money and status, finally got it, and yet they feel lonely and empty.”

What a man needs is a gang. “Gangship is essential to men’s well-being. The trouble with men is they tend to lose touch with their gang. Though this will sound strange initially, this is why they watch sports on TV,” he writes. “Lonely men at home alone crave a reconstituted gang. Hence NASCAR and golf, the attraction to and fascination with, for men, represents an attempt to vicariously experience gangship.”

A practical solution? Reconnect with your best friends from youth, advises Joiner. “Have a reunion with them. It needs to be as juvenile a time as the guys can muster, and ideally it needs to occur regularly. The goal of the reunion is to reconnect the man’s social connections when they were at their peak.” And, bring booze. “Alcohol probably does more good than harm,” he says. “I am aware of several examples of people who have banned alcohol from their lives, with very untoward effects. The poet John Barryman and the novelist Jack London each stopped drinking in the weeks and months before their death by suicide. Sobriety, far from contributing to their well-being, seemed to accelerate their social isolation and thus fuel their deterioration.”

Finally, reconnect with nature and call a friend a day. “One approach to male loneliness is simply to revert to a more natural state of interaction with nature, even if only in small doses. Staring out the window for 10 seconds, for instance.” “Small doses of social connection are strong medicine. You take your statin medicine every day, you take a third of an aspirin every day—well, take your social medicine every day and call somebody.”

Loneliness Types

Men suffer from two forms of loneliness:

* Social Loneliness, related to a lack of social network. Everyone needs people for "hanging out."

The first step to cure loneliness syndrome will be to rebuild or develop a social network. Men seek out "buddies" that fulfill their needs for social contacts--the guys at work, a tennis partner, possibly a drinking buddy or two. Men also seek female friends for a social network. Men have told me women friends are less competitive, more compassionate, and better listeners than their male friends. In addition, it is quite socially acceptable for men to go places alone so men, who do not have a social network, can build one quickly if they choose to do so.

* Emotional Loneliness - absence of a close emotional relationship.

Those superficial buddies, that can cure social loneliness won't touch the emotional variety. That explains why people can party for weeks and still feel lonely. Although even one close relationship can cure emotional loneliness for many, which close relationship is much harder to build than a social network. And, it seems particularly difficult for men to build.


1. Developing a close relationship can be scary. All close relationships require self-disclosure. That frightens many men because of the potential rejection factor. Many men fear making a "fool of themselves" and just drop out of the game rather than risk it.

2. Just as with a love relationship, any close relationship requires a certain amount of "chemistry," that click that comes with finding a kindred spirit. Again, this becomes a "numbers game." We need to meet many people to find our kindred spirits. Meeting many people requires a lot of effort. Moreover, it does not happen quickly.

3. Developing a close relationship also requires a non-competitive atmosphere. Dropping that competitive self is hard-to-impossible for many men, especially those who have been socialized to be competitive beings--as most men have been.

4. Developing a close relationship with female does not work in many cases because of having sex too early in a relationship. Yet many men equate sex with the end of loneliness, and as proof, that a woman cares. They push for sex before they have developed the underlying closeness needed to support an intimate relationship. Sex feels good for those few minutes, then loneliness returns.


Men facing retirement or, even earlier, all men over the age of 50, need to take time out for themselves, grow social networks and get involved in hobbies or activities that get them out of the house. It is not just important for their own mental and physical health but is essential for a better older life and to prevent the health related concerns. There are five suggestions to help you combat loneliness:

1. Make your own friends

It's too easy to let the other half sort out your social arrangements but make sure you have at least one night a week out with 'the boys' or doing something for yourself. Men often only have acquaintances from work or family in their social network. Take up activities that allow you to grow those networks. If you are a proper grumpy and do not want to get involved with others, get a dog. A dog will be a good companion and helps combat feelings of loneliness. It will also help keep you fit.

2. Find time for the things you like doing

There are so many activities, you could take up that there is not enough space here to list them all. Think about things you always wanted to do, but never got time, money, or courage. Take a ball; it is time now, before it is too late to start.

3. Get in touch with your feminine side

Like it or not, you need to open up about your feelings. Men's inability to open up about their feelings is one of the major causes of isolation. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about yourself and your anxieties.

4. Smile

No, do not scare people in the street by grinning wildly at them. I mean try to be friendly and nice, even if it is hard some days. People tend to be nice back, and will be more likely to visit or help you out, than if you are a grouch. No one wants to have a chat and a cup of tea with a grumble guts.

5. Get online

Well, if you are reading this, you probably are already au fait with technology. The Internet can be a lifeline to the outside world and give you contact with people. You can contact people all over the world, leave comments on blogs and chat online. The best part is if you are fed up with them, it is easy to turn the computer off.

Sources and Additional Information:

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