Expert reveals why middle-aged men are lonelier than ever and easy ways for them to re-connect
The cost of living crisis, social media and being too tired to be sociable are just three reasons why middle-aged men are “lonelier than ever”, a psychology professor has said.
Dr Robert Whitley, 50, from Montreal, Canada, is a professor of psychology at McGill University and specialises in men’s mental health.
The professor explains that working overtime and increased divorce rates are also to blame as to why there’s a growing number of lonely men.
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“Your forties and fifties are the most common age for divorce and separation," Whitley says.
“When a couple is married, women are much more likely to maintain relationships with their friendship network and extended family, whereas men tend to rely on their spouse and immediate family for emotional support.
“As women are more commonly granted custody than men after a divorce, men often end up experiencing loneliness. A knock-on effect of divorce on male loneliness is that men can sometimes end up having to work harder to financially support two families.
“This can leave them with less time and money to go out and socialise with friends.”
Research from The Campaign To End Loneliness found the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness in Britain is set to reach two million by 2026 – nearly a 50% increase over the past decade.
Meanwhile, according to a YouGov poll from before the pandemic, one in five men admit to not having a single close friend.
Whitley says social media can be blamed, in part, for this increase in loneliness.
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“The research shows that the more you use social media the more likely you are to be depressed and lonely,” he explains.
“On the one hand, it can help you to stay in touch with friends, and help you to meet people through online dating and friendship apps. But as we learned during Covid, nothing beats in-person contact.
“There is a difference between solitude and loneliness – the first can be pleasurable but the second is often painful. Everyone needs some amount of solitude in their life, and being connected all the time isn’t healthy.”
He added that the cost of living crisis has resulted in many men working longer hours just to make ends meet.
“While they get social contact with work colleagues, spending extra hours at work keeps men away from their nearest and dearest,” Whitley says.
“A knock-on effect of longer working hours is that lots of men I know who would like to volunteer in their spare time at church or perhaps by coaching a sports team are so exhausted from work that they can’t find the time.
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“The net result of all this is that men are doing much more work and much less socialising. This can lead to them feeling isolated from their home community and families.”
To combat loneliness, Whitley recommends joining Men’s Shed which is a network of community spaces for men to connect in as well as talk openly about their mental health.
“Talking about loneliness in that context is often a lot more productive than taking a friend to a pub and asking them what’s wrong,” he adds.
Whitley also suggests joining a sports team, volunteering with a charity and taking night classes as options to help combat loneliness and make new friends.
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