Loneliness in Middle-Aged Men


BOSTON, Mass. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — As men grow older, their friendships don’t multiply. They actually fade away and from a health standpoint, that’s bad. In fact it can even speed up death according to one Harvard psychiatrist.

Midlife crisis; it’s not just an excuse for guys to go out and buy a red convertible. Research show’s it’s the real deal. In fact studies say one in five Americans, especially men, fall into isolation when they let friendships lapse.

“Yes I do believe that loneliness in middle-aged men is serious is a real concern absolutely,” said The Reverend Bradford Clark.

Reverend Clark and his parishioner Jim Field get together regularly because they know the importance of guy time.

Field stated “A lot of times I find my purpose though my friendships with others, but friendships require cultivation just like a garden.”

Life-changing events, like death, divorce, or job loss often trigger isolation and more often in men than women.

“It’s a given that women are much quicker to pick up the phone, much quicker to have lunch, much quicker to sit and talk face-to-face and guys don’t do that.” Reverend Clark said.

Psychiatrist Richard S. Schwartz, MD, said “Everybody doesn’t want to say they are lonely because it makes you feel like a loser. You are not a loser if you are lonely.”

Doctor Richard Schwartz wrote The Lonely American with his wife and has consulted patients for more than 30 years.

“Most will tell you something had to give and what gave is friends. I think of myself as having friends but I don’t see them anymore and so over time the people start to slip away and they realize the connections aren’t there.” Dr. Schwartz explained.

And long-term loneliness can have huge medical consequences.

Dr. Schwartz continued, “The effect of social isolation and loneliness on our health is as powerful as things like smoking, high blood pressure, obesity.”

“It is like that Nike slogan just do it. Don’t think about it. Just do it. Call somebody up and invite them to do something with you.” Reverend Clark told Ivanhoe.

It’s a connection that may save your life.

Don’t think texting and Facebook count. They don’t. Digital friends aren’t the same as face-to-face friends.

Contributors to this news report include: Pamela Tomlin, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Steve D’onofrio, Videographer.

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REPORT #2460

BACKGROUND: While we are more connected than ever before through social media, it is estimated that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness. It’s true that nearly everyone will experience feelings of loneliness at some point in their lives. However, chronic feelings of loneliness can become a significant health concern. New research is shedding light on some of the causes and consequences of chronic loneliness, which shows a higher risk of physical and psychological health problems like heart disease and depression. “Many people think of loneliness as a transient state, or something most everyone experiences but is relatively short-lived,” Dr. David Sbarra, a psychologist at the University of Arizona explains. “As we learn that some people are chronically lonely, we begin to see that the topic has considerable public health importance.”

(Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/21/science-loneliness_n_6864066.html)

HEALTH RISKS: Loneliness can set in motion a wide variety of negative impacts inside the human body. John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago social psychologist, found that loneliness is tied to hardening of the arteries (which leads to high blood pressure), inflammation in the body, and even problems with learning and memory. Cacioppo further states, “…even fruit flies that are isolated have worse health and die sooner than those that interact with others, showing that social engagement may be hard-wired.” Loneliness has also been found to raise levels of the circulating stress hormone cortisol and blood pressure. And, social isolation can run the risk of pushing blood pressure up into the danger zone for heart attacks and strokes. Loneliness can have a negative impact on the quality of sleep. A person’s sleep may be less restorative, both physically and psychologically. Socially isolated people wake up more at night and spend less time in bed actually sleeping. When it comes to treating loneliness and social isolation, some interventions work better than others.

(Source: https://www.livescience.com/18800-loneliness-health-problems.html)

LONELINESS ON THE RISE: In the next 15 years, severe loneliness in men over 50 will increase to over 1 million in England. Already a high degree of loneliness affects more than 700,000 older men.  It is predicted that the number of older men living alone will rise by 65% to 1.5 million by 2030. Men with low incomes and poor health will be hit the hardest as well as those living in rented housing.  Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, says “If you allow people to suffer from loneliness it has the equivalent impact as smoking 51 cigarettes a day and is as big a risk as obesity…The most important thing is that we take responsibility for ourselves and prepare for old age…It means staying in touch and keeping up links with friends and family. We already think about our housing and finances and we need to think about what we are going to do post-retirement to maintain our social connections.”  Attempts to tackle this problem include: Men in Sheds, an Australian project, developed to allow men to share tools to work on their own projects in the same venue, “telephone befriending” projects such as Seafarers Link to encourage ex-seafarers to call each other on a weekly basis and walking football for men over 50 to encourage socializing.

(Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/13/men-face-future-loneliness-problems)

* For More Information, Contact:

Richard S. Schwartz, MD                                           Laura Neves

Psychiatrist                                                                 Senior Public Affairs Specialist

rschwartz@hms.harvard.edu                                     lneves1@partners.org