Male loneliness: The new epidemic by J Wayne Miraflor for Christian Today
There is a new epidemic of loneliness that is making waves across the landscape of our communities.
For the purpose of this article, I will be addressing male friendships in the context of Christian community. The research is overwhelming. Men are having an increasingly difficult time creating and maintaining close friendships.
In his recent article entitled, “Men’s Social Circles are Shrinking,” Daniel Cox relates some of the current statistics on this issue of declining male friendships:
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As Americans venture back out to reclaim their social lives, a new report reveals a profound change in the nature of American friendships. One of the most important changes revealed by May American Perspectives Survey is the decline of close friendships. In the past three decades, American friendship groups have become smaller and the number of Americans without any close confidants has risen sharply.
But these changes have not affected Americans equally. Men appear to have suffered a far steeper decline than women. Thirty years ago, a majority of men (55%) reported having at least six close friends. Today, that number has been cut in half. Slightly more than one in four (27%) men have six or more close friends today. Fifteen percent of men have no close friendships at all, a fivefold increase since 1990.
I find it to be staggering that most men only have three friends or fewer. I asked myself a few questions about these new realities. Is there a statistical difference in the church community? My sense is the numbers are no different for men within a faith community context. Why is there so much loneliness inside and outside of faith communities? Maybe the reason is we’re not sure how to create a band of brothers that we can share our lives with. In that opening short text in Ecclesiastes, we find hope and comfort in very few words “two is better than one.”
In an intriguing article in Psychology Today entitled, “The Devastating Effects of Men’s Loneliness,” Dr. Arum Weiss makes a keen observation:
Research suggests that a focus on the accumulation of wealth and material goods results in less overall happiness in life and less satisfaction in intimate relationships (Baker, 2017). The Harvard Study of Adult Development (Harvard, 2017) followed a group of men for eight decades. Throughout the study, at different points in their lives, the men were asked, “Who would you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or afraid?” Those men who had someone to turn to were happier in their lives and their marriages, and also physically healthier over time (Psychology Today, November 21, 2021).