A staggering 1 in 8 men say they have no friends to discuss serious topics with (such as work, money worries or mental health), according to a YouGov survey for Movember.
Men’s chances of having no friends almost treble between their early 20’s and late middle age, with men who are married more likely to be affected.
Attitudes about male friendships
A study from the Samaritans found that men still compare themselves to a ‘gold standard’ that values power, control and invincibility.
The study found that during childhood men are taught that being ‘manly’ doesn’t emphasise social and emotional skills. Additionally, men are more likely to commit suicide than women following a relationship breakdown as they tend to rely more heavily on their partners for emotional support, rather than turning to friends or family.
However, the study also found that men tend to value friendships that offer companionship and doing activities together – such as listening to music or playing sport – rather than talking. The Samaritans therefore emphasises that the significance of these friendships should not be played down simply because they are not intimate in the same way that women’s relationships tend to be. Men will talk to friends about issues, but they also value a ‘no questions asked’ attitude – unconditional acceptance and permission not to talk about their problems.
Male versus female friendships
According to Psychology Today, women have a tendency to favour fewer, more intimate friendships whereas men like to have a wider range of more casual friends. This means that they are less susceptible to loneliness than women – whose close friendships take time to develop.
Unfortunately, however, if their dense network of friends thins out, men are less likely to address their feelings of loneliness.
What can cause loneliness?
Loneliness can be brought about by significant life changes – such as moving to a new area, starting a family, experiencing bereavement – or simply by naturally drifting away from friends.
A growing focus on socialising online, rather than going to clubs, sports teams or hobby groups, can also contribute. People tend to put up a curated version of their lives on social media and evidence is starting to show that scrolling through Facebook without contributing can emphasise feelings of loneliness.
How to meet new people
Thankfully, there are a growing number of groups out there to help men meet each other.
Those looking to make new friends in their local area could try joining a Meetup group, football team or a Men’s Shed. There are even organisations for those who would still love to play sport, but can’t because of an injury or heart condition, called Walking Football groups.
Although there still seems to be fewer groups aimed at fathers, the Dad Network is worth a look for those wanting to connect with other parents. It has a host of forums, blogs and local meetups, as well as a list of places that offer dad-friendly facilities.
There are also a number of other groups available for people looking for specific kinds of support:
- Mental Health
- Personal growth/development
- Sexual abuse/rape
- Single dads
There are a lot of tips and advice on improving and maintaining your social health available on our support web pages. We also have a useful article on how to beat loneliness and build up a friendship group.
If you’re feeling lonely, then we’re here to help. You can ring our free and confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat.