Tackle loneliness this Christmas: Single men and the ‘silent epidemic’
Life events such as divorce, children leaving home, unemployment and bereavement can all have a huge impact on our wellbeing.
And although our middle years can be the busiest of our lives, these big triggers can cause loneliness that others sometimes don’t notice. Despite the daily juggle of family, work and everyday life, adults can struggle to stay connected to friends and relatives, leaving them feeling lonely, isolated and cut off.
While women of all ages report higher levels of loneliness than men do - single men are now finding themselves especially vulnerable.
The issue, sometimes described as a ‘silent epidemic’, has been researched extensively by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The findings suggest that 11% of men feel lonely every day and 35% at least once a week.
Researchers discovered that most men would prefer to keep their feelings of loneliness to themselves, to avoid any stigma. Women, on the other hand, are generally more comfortable talking about their feelings of loneliness as evidenced in another detailed study.
In this study, subjects were presented with a case history of a lonely person which varied only the person’s gender. The subjects ended up being more rejecting and negative towards the lonely male than the lonely female - supporting the conclusion that women are more likely to acknowledge feeling lonely, due to less adverse consequences.
As well as having a negative effect on our mental health, sustained loneliness can also cause us to fall into unhealthy habits and life choices. Excessive drinking and smoking, lack of regular exercise and an unbalanced diet can all cause undue - potentially long-term - damage to our physical health.
If you’re feeling isolated or alone, try these first steps to help banish the feelings:
● Reconnect with a friend or relative - if you’re feeling low, it’s easy to sit and suffer alone. You might be surprised how pleased people are to hear from you.
● Join a club, class or society. You’ll beat the loneliness as well as reconnecting with an old interest or learning a new skill.
● Get lost in a book - you’re never alone with a good book. And if you’re a big reader, ask around about book clubs.
● Get a pet. Dogs are particularly good because they’re a great excuse to chat to other dog walkers
● Remember you are not alone. There are times when everybody feels lonely but there’s always a way to reach out to other people.
Royal Voluntary Service (https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/ourimpact/start-a-conversation)
Sage Journals (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167285111006)
Lasting Change Counselling (http://www.lastingchangecounseling.com/loneliness/)
National Center for Biotechnology Information (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3794995)