In a new report, Vivek Murthy, United States Surgeon General, reveals a shocking truth: the United States is facing an epidemic of male loneliness and isolation. The harmful effects of this epidemic on our health are comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.
Interestingly, recent studies have also shown that men are more likely to experience feelings of loneliness than women, with statistics highlighting the severity of the issue. This experience of isolation in men can significantly impact their mental health, leading to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
In this blog, we’ll explore why men go through life alone and how this isolation impacts their mental health. This blog also discusses the top strategies to break this cycle.
Societal expectations are crucial for men to feel like they are alone. Men are taught to be strong, self-sufficient, and independent early on. Fredric Rabinowitz, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Redlands in California who had stewarded the new guidelines since 2005, when he was president of the American Psychological Association, said:
“Because of the way many men have been brought up—to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves—any sense that things aren't OK needs to be kept secret," Rabinowitz says. "Part of what happens is that men who keep things to themselves look outward and see that no one else is sharing any of the conflicts they feel inside. That makes them feel isolated. They think they're alone. They think they're weak. They think they're not OK. They don't realize that other men also harbor private thoughts, emotions, and conflicts."
Research led by Omar Yousaf, Ph.D., found that men who bought into traditional notions of masculinity were more pessimistic about seeking mental health services than those with more flexible gender attitudes. The fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable acts as a barrier, preventing men from seeking support from others.
Additionally, men may struggle with a lack of Social connectedness. This lack of connection can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, significantly impacting their mental health. A study published in the American Sociological Review found that men have, on average, smaller social networks and fewer confidants than women.
Studies repeatedly show that women are more likely than men to have many close friends. Women are taught from a young age to respect friendship, tell their friends secrets, and get close to their close friends. Even if a man has a lot of friends, he may not feel safe talking about his thoughts or showing how weak he feels.
In 2018, a study of people who lived in rural areas found that 63 percent of guys felt safe speaking up to friends, while 74 percent of women felt the same way. Women were also more likely to participate in events, like church meetings, that bring people together and help them feel like they belonged.
Most lone wolves get away from each other in many ways, including:
Sometimes, they do this by doing well, being busy, or helping other people. They don't give themselves time to stop and look under the hood of their hearts to see what they want. They try to be the "nice guy" everyone can count on. They focus on what others like and don't think about what they want from life; no one asks them.
Other times, men are so scared and sure of how screwed up they are that they can barely keep the loneliness epidemic together as they walk around. They go on even though they feel like a mass murder. They think it's only a matter of time before everyone finds out. They smile in public, but inside, they tell themselves they're not good enough. They don't want to tell anyone what they are going through.
Even though being alone is a big problem for single guys, a study shows that feeling lonely mentally is even more critical. 2011, researchers found a link between being socially isolated and being less happy with life. The association was even more vital for mental loneliness. Researchers also found that male college students were likelier than female students to feel lonely.
When this cycle goes on long enough, it often contributes to even more destructive behaviors like:
Feeling isolated takes a toll on men's mental health, manifesting as depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The absence of someone to confide in can create a sense of hopelessness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men are less likely than women to seek help for their mental health concerns, making them have male vulnerability to the adverse effects of isolation.
Men may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, overeating, and toxic masculinity, to suppress their emotions. Numerous studies have emphasized the importance of social support for maintaining good mental health. Solid Social connectedness improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances resilience. Conversely, men lacking this social connectedness represent male vulnerability to mental health challenges.
Consider these five ideas if you want to know what to do when you feel lonely:
While breaking the cycle of loneliness and isolation may be challenging, it is undoubtedly possible. Men can take proactive steps to improve their mental health and foster meaningful social connectedness:
Engaging with a therapist or counselor provides a safe and non-judgmental space for men to explore and discuss their emotions. According to a National Alliance on Mental Illness report, 73% of men who received therapy reported improved mental health outcomes.
Joining social clubs or groups aligned with their interests enables men to meet like-minded individuals and forge new friendships. A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that men with more robust Social connectedness experienced lower rates of depression and improved overall well-being.
Sharing feelings with family and friends can be a transformative experience. Having a support system plays a significant role in enhancing mental health outcomes. Research published in the Journal of Men's Health found that men with strong emotional support from their partners had lower levels of psychological distress.
Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and an avenue to connect with others who share similar values and passions. Research conducted by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute revealed that volunteering contributes to lower rates of depression and increased happiness.
Pets are really good companions for improving mental health. Read our blog about how pets affect and improve mental health. If you have stress because of finances, here is how to handle financial stress to manage mental health.
“The lone wolf is stronger than the pack and so it survives.”
Loneliness impacts millions of people. The detrimental impact of loneliness and isolation on lone wolf attackers' mental health cannot be overlooked. Men can significantly improve their mental health and well-being by challenging societal expectations and fostering solid social connections.
Seeking professional help, building social relationships, talking openly with loved ones, and engaging in volunteer work are essential steps toward breaking the cycle of isolation.
Let us work together to dismantle the stigma surrounding men's mental health, creating a supportive environment where men can thrive and lead fulfilling lives.
You should not have to face life hardships alone. Join expert-led support groups at MentalHappy.com today.
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