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Lifestyle

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. This can be especially difficult during the winter period.

While women of all ages report higher levels of loneliness than men do - single men are now finding themselves especially vulnerable.

The ‘silent epidemic’

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.

6 suggestions to help you feel more connected

1. Think about what is making you feel lonely

According to Mind, people usually feel lonely for one of two reasons. The first is that they don’t see or talk to anyone very often. The second is that even though they are surrounded by other people, they don’t feel understood or cared for. The charity suggests that knowing what makes you feel lonely can help you tackle the issue better.

2. Invite someone round

If you feel you are often alone, you could try to find ways to be sociable. Although this might seem daunting, lots of people like being sociable at Christmas. So, the invitation of a sherry, or a cup of tea and a mince pie is often welcome. If you’re feeling shy, then write the invitation on a Christmas card.

3. Say yes to any invitations

It can be easy to perpetuate loneliness by staying at home. So, even if it’s something you wouldn’t usually do – or with people of a different age group –saying yes to an invitation or going along to a local event can help you make connections you wouldn’t otherwise. As Mind explains: “Just as your body uses hunger to tell you ‘you need food’, loneliness is a way of your body telling you that you need more social contact.”

4. Use social media

Facebook or other social media doesn’t have to be just about the friends you already know. It can be a great way to find new connections (obviously remember to ). Join a group related to your interests, your area, your old school, a charity or anything that takes your fancy.

5. Volunteer

If you’re able to offer time and energy, volunteering can be a great way of alleviating loneliness. Do-it.org has opportunities all over the country and there are lots of other organisations that offer support listed on the Mind website. Learn more about the benefits of volunteering…

6. Ask for help

If you have family, try to speak to them about how you’re feeling, or your GP may be able to suggest some talking therapies or local groups. Other organisations that you might find helpful are listed below.

Further information:

The Christmas season isn’t always easy. If you’re a Benenden Health member, you can access our Mental Health Helpline 24/7. Whether you're suffering from anxiety, depression, bereavement or relationship problems, we can make sure you don’t have to handle it alone by providing access to an experienced therapist.

Sources:

Royal Voluntary Service 

Psych Central 

Sage Journals 

Lasting Change Counselling 

National Center for Biotechnology Information