By Jim Woods

Two men on mountaintopAs men get older, it’s easy to let friendships fall by the wayside. Instead of hanging out with friends, men spend time with their family or focus their attention toward their career. As a result, schedules fill up, and, over time, friends stop communicating with each other.

Let’s face it: friendships aren’t convenient. It takes time, money and energy for a friendship to work. But these costs pale in comparison to the long-term health consequences of not having friends. Men become lonely when they do not spend time with their buddies. While society may imply that it’s normal to be a “loner,” statistics show that loneliness is an inconspicuous epidemic that affects 60 million Americans. While occasional loneliness is normal, chronic loneliness bears a serious health risk.1

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, says being connected to others socially is a fundamental human need. It is crucial to both well-being and survival. Infants that lack human contact fail to thrive and face higher mortality rates. In addition, social isolation or solitary confinement is commonly used as a form of punishment.2

Many lonely people believe they are unique in their situation and that it’s not normal to feel as lonely as they do.3 Some may even wonder if they are weak or feel vulnerable to admit being lonely. Many men choose to cope in unhealthy, unfulfilling ways such as substance abuse and addiction.

The Signs of Loneliness

Loneliness makes our bodies feel like they are under attack. Loneliness can even lead to an increase in blood pressure and cholesterol and activate our physical and psychological stress responses.4 This behavior is not healthy and can lead to a serious health complications. Many individuals choose to sit back in the recliner, watch another show and have another beer instead of talking about their problems or emotions. This approach is unhealthy for both your physical and mental health.

Some of the common signs of loneliness include irritability, anxiety, aches, pains, overeating, fatigue, being sick more than usual and feeling empty inside. These are also symptoms of depression.5 The line between loneliness and depression can be blurry, so many men do not know they are lonely or depressed. Loneliness is connected to depression. If an individual abuses alcohol or drugs, it can actually make the symptoms of depression worse. In some cases, depression can lead to suicide. The Centers for Disease Control states that the suicide rate for men aged 45 to 64 has increased 43 percent from 1999 to 2014. 6 While there are a variety of factors for this sudden percentage increase, it’s important to note that mental health issues should not be taken lightly. If you or someone you know feels depressed, please get help as soon as possible.

What Men Can Do

For many men, the barrage of social media updates, emails and constant notifications actually increases feelings of loneliness. Spending time with others can make a big difference. Isolation feeds feelings of loneliness and depression. To be mentally healthy, social interaction is essential. Set aside specific times for breaks so you can spend time communicating with others face to face. Don’t fall for the false badge of honor of “being too busy to talk” or “being a workaholic.” While some men are more social than others, we all need some social interaction.

The good news is this there is a solution for this problem. Be proactive and contact a friend today. Grab a cup of coffee, get some lunch or go to the gym. Schedule a recurring time on your calendar to spend with friends. Stop waiting and reach out to a friend — new or old — today.

1 Gupta, Dr. Sanjay. “Why You Should Treat Loneliness as a Chronic Illness.”, Everyday Health, 4 Aug. 2015, Accessed 1 Sept. 2017.

2So Lonely I Could Die.” American Psychological Association. 5 Aug. 2017, Accessed 1 Sept. 2017.

3 Hall, Karyn. “Accepting Loneliness.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 13 Jan. 2013, Accessed 1 Sept. 2017.

4 Winch, Guy. “10 Surprising Facts About Loneliness.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 21 Oct. 2014, Accessed 1 Sept. 2017.

5Symptoms of Depression.” WebMD, WebMD. Accessed 1 Sept. 2017.

6Increase in Suicide in the United States, 1999–2014.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Apr. 2016, Accessed 1 Sept. 2017.