Millions of Australian men are letting friendships fall by the wayside and becoming increasingly isolated once they reach their 30s, an Australian-first study has found.
The Men’s Social Connectedness report, funded by beyondblue with donations from The Movember Foundation, reveals the extent of loneliness and disconnection among men in their middle years.
It found that as men turn 30 and their social lives start declining, so too do their levels of social support.
As a result, of the 4.5 million Australian men aged between 30 and 65, just four in 10 are satisfied with how much they feel like a member of the community and less than two-thirds are satisfied with the quality of their relationships. Similarly, one in four, or 1.1 million men, have few or no social connections.
beyondblue Chairman The Hon Jeff Kennett AC said this widespread loneliness demonstrated that the tendency for men to neglect friendships as family and work commitments become more important must change.
“These findings are terribly sad and show that, while it is perfectly natural for men’s priorities to change once they turn 30, they must continue to invest time in their friendships before they slip away,” he said.
“The report also confirms the impact that loneliness has on men’s mental health, with men who have low social support more likely to have high levels of psychological distress.
“Strong social support is therefore an excellent protective factor against depression, anxiety and suicide.
“While women tend to make new friends when their circumstances change, it appears that men don’t. Social connections are vital for good mental health and Australian men must prioritise them as they age.”
Other findings of the report, which was based on a survey of 4100 men, include that men aged between 35 and 54 are at greatest risk of isolation and one-quarter of men in their middle years had no-one who lived nearby, apart from family, upon whom they could depend.
It also found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island men and unemployed men have lower levels of social support than others surveyed and that men did not rate a lack of social support as an important social issue.
Movember Foundation’s Asia Pacific Director Jeremy Macvean said he hoped this report would change that perception.
“Good friendships and other strong social connections are a major protective factor that can prevent mental illness and Movember is proud to support research that will help more men understand that,” he said.
“This report shows that men’s social support starts improving once they reach retirement age, but commitments such as a career should not stop men having friendships, they just need to put in the effort to maintain them.
“If men are feeling isolated or lonely, there is a lot they can do to change that, including joining a Men’s Shed in their local area, reaching out to a mate or helping others by becoming a volunteer.”
Anyone experiencing loneliness or mental health issues can contact the beyondblue Support Service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 1300 22 4636, or via the online chat service from 3pm to midnight seven days a week at www.beyondblue.org.au or via email from the same site.