Exploring the ‘high levels of loneliness’ among Aussie men and how to empower change

Jun 14, 2023
As rates of loneliness among men continues to rise, it's now more important than ever to take action. Source: Getty Images.

An alarming epidemic is silently engulfing the nation and millions of men are at risk.

Loneliness has made its way into the very fabric of existence, casting a shadow over the well-being of men and hindering their ability to forge genuine connections while having dire consequences on their health.

Despite an era of unprecedented connectivity, men find themselves lost in a sea of isolation, yearning for meaningful connection.

A recent survey of 1,282 Australian men, conducted by Healthy Male, found that 43 per cent of Australian men are lonely with high levels of loneliness reported by more than one in six men (16 per cent) overall. Alarmingly, men who experience high levels of loneliness are more likely than others to have poor physical and mental health

As part of Men’s Health Week, Starts at 60 conducts an exploration of this issue, unmasking the impact of loneliness among Australian men and highlighting the actions that can reshape their lives.

The impact of the loneliness epidemic on Australian men

Loneliness chips away at the emotional well-being of those experiencing it, leaving men feeling disconnected and isolated. It takes a toll on mental health, contributing to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Moreover, the absence of meaningful connections can adversely affect physical health, as social isolation has been linked to a higher risk of developing chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and obesity.

The impact extends beyond individual well-being, as the loneliness epidemic can strain relationships, hinder career prospects, and impede overall life satisfaction. By understanding the profound impact of loneliness, we can begin to address it with empathy, compassion, and effective strategies to combat this troubling health concern.

Professor Tim Moss PhD from Healthy Male elaborated further on some of the negative health consequences that are commonly associated with loneliness.

“Generally, loneliness is associated with earlier death, and higher rates of chronic disease, like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer,” Moss explains.

“It is also associated with frailty, problems moving around, and difficulty with going about daily activities. Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and dementia, and cognitive decline.”

Moss also offered some insight into why men are experiencing loneliness at such alarmingly high rates.

“In our society, it is common for females to be the family members who put the time into maintaining contact with other family members and friends,” Moss says.

“If a couple separates, the male partner may not have so many close friends, or might not have the skills or opportunity to make meaningful relationships with others.”

Recognising the detrimental health effects of loneliness on Australian men, it becomes imperative to explore avenues through which they can seek help and overcome this devastating issue.

How men can seek help and overcome loneliness

While support from others is crucial, men experiencing loneliness can also take proactive steps to improve their situation.

Taking steps to address loneliness is important, as it not only promotes overall well-being but also helps individuals cultivate meaningful connections. Unfortunately, many men are often reluctant to seek help or may not even be aware of the support available to them.

Findings from the Healthy Male study indicate that:

  • Only 35 per cent of men who are very lonely see it as important.

Moss offers a possible explanation as to what’s holding men back from addressing their feelings of loneliness.

“People who are lonely might not always realise it, or they might feel overwhelmed and not know where to start to address the problem,” he says.

“Some men prioritise everyone else above themselves, so they might feel like they don’t have time to put into friendships or other social relationships. Some men can be stoic, and tolerate their loneliness, even though it’s difficult and possibly damaging.”

While the roadblocks standing in the way of addressing this concerning health issue can seem almost insurmountable, there are a number of ways loneliness can be addressed, some of which can include:

  • Self-reflection: Take some time to reflect on personal interests, values, and goals.
  • Step out of your comfort zone: Take a break from your routine and try new activities or join clubs and groups that align with your personal passions.
  • Reaching out: Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family members, or acquaintances. Share thoughts, feelings, and experiences to foster deeper connections with those around you.
  • Building a support network: Build a strong support system of trusted individuals who can offer a listening ear, advice, or simply companionship during challenging times.
  • Seeking professional help: If feelings of loneliness persist or become overwhelming, consider seeking professional help from therapists, counsellors, or support groups.
  • Prioritise self-care: Engage in activities that promote self-care and emotional well-being. This may include practicing mindfulness, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, pursuing hobbies, or engaging in regular exercise.

Moss also speaks to the importance of relationships when it comes to combatting loneliness, explaining that “relationships need to be tended to, a bit like plants in a garden.”

“Spend a little time each day to contact a friend,” he advises.

Moss also suggests those who experience loneliness should give volunteering a go, highlighting the benefits that can come with giving back.

“Helping others gives us a connection with them, which can ease loneliness,” he says.

He also points those experiencing loneliness to Ending Loneliness Together which “has a great online search tool to help find groups, organisations, and services to help people connect with others and build relationships.”

Ultimately, it is crucial for men experiencing loneliness to realise that they are not alone and that reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

By taking these proactive steps and embracing personal growth, men can empower themselves to break free from the grips of loneliness and forge fulfilling connections that contribute to a happier and more connected life.

Why it’s important to address loneliness levels among men?

Addressing the issue of loneliness among men is of utmost importance due to the profound impact it has on their overall well-being and quality of life.

By addressing men’s loneliness, we can provide them with the necessary support, validation, and resources they need to break free from isolation, improve their mental and physical well-being, and ultimately lead more fulfilling and connected lives.

Moss stresses that “humans are social animals and cannot thrive if their fundamental need for company is not met.”

“Helping people to feel less lonely is good for them (they will feel better and may avoid some of the health problems associated with loneliness), and good for everyone,” he explains.

“Being kind and helpful to others can increase your own happiness.”

Loneliness among Australian men is not a battle to be fought alone. By acknowledging the significance of this epidemic and taking meaningful action, we can hopefully reverse the tide and create a society that thrives on interconnectedness.

Breaking down stigmas, fostering open conversations, and building stronger support networks are just a few steps toward combating loneliness. As rates of loneliness among men continues to rise, it’s now more important than ever to embrace empathy and extend a helping hand to create a brighter, more inclusive future where no man feels alone.

If you or anyone you know needs help: Lifeline — 13 11 14; MensLine Australia — 1300 789 978; BeyondBlue — 1300 224 636; Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467; Headspace — 1800 650 890; Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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