What is everyone doing this weekend? Reading Prince Harry’s tell-all, 410-page memoir, perhaps? The book sold a record-setting 1.4 million copies on its first day on shelves. Nothing like a little royal gossip to spice up the weekend, am I right? Or maybe royal gossip isn’t for you, and you rather spend some time with your friends. Great choice, but it is unlikely you will spend time with friends this weekend if you are a guy. Why the difference, and what impact does this have on men’s health? Let’s dive in.
The End Of Male Friendships
We have said this before, but we will say it again. Health isn’t just about food, movement, and mindset. It is also about meaningful human interaction and sharing health with those you love (which is why you should share this newsletter with all your friends).
As we start the New Year, many people focus on improving their health and kicking off 2023 on the right foot, which is great! People are cleaning up their diets, going to the gym, going for walks, participating in challenges, and doing everything we promote on the Daily Tonic. But, the piece that everyone always seems to forget about is the importance of friends and having meaningful in-person social interactions daily.
However, to have those meaningful interactions, you need to have friends in the first place. The bad news for men? Male friendships are becoming increasingly rare these days. A recent survey shows five times more men without friends in the U.S. than just 30 years ago. Not only that, the percentage of men with at least six close friends has nearly halved during the same period.
This is a big problem given that loneliness can significantly increase your risk of all-cause mortality, according to the CDC.
So why are boys and men struggling to make and keep friends? It is important first to point out that women are also struggling in the friendship department, although to a lesser extent than their male counterparts. We are all getting lonelier, but the problem seems a bit direr for men than it does for women.
Americans are marrying much later in life and are more geographically mobile than ever before. Both trends are strongly associated with self-reported isolation and feelings of loneliness. Additionally, parents spend twice as much time with their children compared to previous generations. The argument here is that all this time with mom and dad is crowding out other relationships, including friends.
And, of course, Americans are working longer hours and spending more time commuting to and from work than we did in the past. This means less time (and energy) to make new friends or maintain existing relationships.
But how do any of these factors disproportionately impact men over women? That piece is still unclear, but some experts believe it has to do with how boys are socialized at a young age. Generally speaking, boys are taught to be self-sufficient and stoic. While these can be beneficial traits in some respects, but could also make it more challenging to open up and make meaningful connections as adults.
Even for men with close friends, women are far more likely to receive emotional support from their friends. Men have always been less likely to seek help when struggling with emotional hardships or mental health issues.
The key takeaway? As we look to optimize our health in 2023, it is essential that we remind ourselves that health isn’t just about diet and exercise. Social connections are a basic human need, right on par with food, water, and shelter. Yet, for some reason, we choose to deprioritize it today more than ever before. Men and women need to be more proactive about staying in touch and strengthening their friendships.
Show that you care by being the first to reach out after a long stint of not hearing from a friend. And when you do spend time with those you care about, make sure you are present. If you are going to spend time with a friend, actually spend time with them. Don’t scroll on social media trying to read the latest hot take on Prince Harry’s new book.
So enjoy the weekend and connect with a friend! It is one of the best things you can do for your health.