By now you’ve no doubt seen the John Lewis Christmas advert entitled ‘The Man on the Moon’. Whether you love it, are simply indifferent, or have managed to avoid it altogether, the ad links with Age UK. It aims to raise awareness of the plight of older people who can go a month without speaking to anyone.
Just like the man on the moon, it’s often men, more than women, who can feel the loneliest, according to the Movember Foundation. This has just released new statistics showing how few friends men have, including 19% of over 55s saying they lacked a close friend.
The YouGov survey for the charity found that 12% of men do not have a friend they would discuss a serious topic (e.g. work worries, a health problem, money worries) with, while just over half of men (51%) have two friends or less that they would open up to about a serious problem.
They also found that:
• 9% of men say they don’t remember the last time they made contact with their friends
• 26% say they make contact with their mates less than once a month
• 43% of men have NEVER told a friend that they love them
According to the charity, it’s part of a global problem. The Movember Foundation adds that World Health Organisation (WHO) research shows almost one in four men worldwide experiences low levels of social support, and a quarter have no one outside their immediate family to rely on.
The true impact of loneliness
The Movember Foundation, which encourages men to grow moustaches and get active throughout November, is dedicated to giving men longer, healthier and happier lives.
It says loneliness is one of the main risk factors linked to poor mental health: “Men tend not to prioritise their friends to the same extent as women, a trend which has a negative impact on their health in the longer term, including increased risk of depression, anxiety and suicide.”
High suicide rate in lonely men
In 2013, the male suicide rate was the highest it’s been since 2001, and one in eight men in the UK have been diagnosed with a mental health problem.
Men also tend to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness more during huge life events, such as break-ups, job loss, bereavement or becoming a father.
Paul Villanti, Movember Foundation executive director of programmes, says: “Encouraging men to be more socially connected and drawing on these relationships when they go through tough times and transitions in life is a critical priority for the Movember Foundation, as we seek to improve the health and well-being of men and contribute to the reduction in the number of men that die by suicide.”
Helping men make friends
“One of the things we see is that men are out of the habit of striking up new friendships,” Sarah Coghlan, country director for Movember UK, told the Telegraph.
“Women are quite comfortable with striking up a new friendship and saying ‘Hi, do you want to go for a glass of wine after work, or even see a film next Tuesday?’.
“For men that’s just not socially acceptable in the same way. We have to find innovative means that are out there - how do we get men to reconnect with each other?”
The Movember Foundation is launching a Social Innovators Challenge in Australia, the UK and Canada, with £2.4 million set aside to tackle the issue of helping men to make more connections. They’re inviting anyone with ideas to submit them in 500 words by December 10. Click here or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marcus Rand, from the Campaign To End Loneliness, backs the initiative and adds: “Loneliness, and in particular the issue of loneliness among men, is at last being talked about openly.
“Two brilliant initiatives that have taken off are Men's Sheds - a way for guys to meet - and Walking Football. Both schemes expanded significantly over the past year, showing there is huge demand. We all need face-to-face interaction - it's what makes us human, and so special.”
How often do you see your friends? Tell us in the Comments section below.