Why Men Need Friends

Why Men Need Friends


Why Friendships are Hard for Men

Only 30% of men report sharing their feelings with a friend last week.

One in five single men say they have no close friendships.

Only 25% of men tell their friends “I love you.”

It’s hard to say if these statistics are surprising. For some, they may seem obvious. For others, they point to an issue that has been around for years but is only just surfacing in public conversations.

News outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, Vox, The Guardian, and others have been writing about a loneliness epidemic among men for months. Coming out of the pandemic where so many of us experienced unprecedented loneliness, it feels like a time where friendships need to come back in a heavy dose. And it’s men who sometimes need help cultivating new friendships and deepening existing ones.

Here’s why male friendships matter.

The health effects of loneliness

It’s no secret that an increased level of loneliness leads to a decreased enjoyment of life. Everyone who lived through the recent pandemic experienced this firsthand.

When the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration declared a “loneliness epidemic,” they specifically listed the causes as “no participation in social groups, fewer friends, and strained relationships.” This affects everyone.

Cigna recently reported that 46% of Americans said they felt alone, and 43% of Americans felt that their relationships were not meaningful. Research has also shown that loneliness is strongly associated with cognitive decline and dementia. If that’s not enough, loneliness is comparable to smoking fifteen cigarettes per day and is worse for health than obesity.

Loneliness at work

With many people coming back into the office in recent years, it’s clear that friendships at work are taking on a higher priority than they have in the past. On this phenomena, Dan Schawbel’s research paints a clear picture.

Through his work as partner and research director at Future Workplace, he has learned that 70% of people say friendship at work is the most important element to a happy work life, and 58% say they would turn down a higher-paying job if it meant not getting along with coworkers.

In addition, according to a data analysis conducted by Gallup in 2020, employees who say they have a best friend at work are almost twice as likely as others to enjoy their workday and almost 50% more likely to report high social well-being.

The line between work friends and real friends is only continuing to blur, and that may in fact be a good thing. For men who find themselves driven by career success, finding those who share their aspirations can create healthy social bonds.

But the office isn’t the only place men are learning to connect.

How men make friends

“Men’s Sheds” are a recent trend in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. And before you ask what exactly they are, you can probably guess. These are places where lonely men work in shared spaces on crafts and personal projects. Imagine your dream tool shed, but full of your friends.

Because shared activities are a common source for friendship among men, working on projects around others doing the same forces interaction and the use of long-lost friendship skills. As one man told a Washington Post reporter, “I come here, I chat with people, and I feel like I accomplish something. I was nervous at first, but people were really welcoming, and now I come at least once a week.”

Loneliness comes with a cruel irony. It’s an issue faced by everyone and talked about by almost no one. This lack of conversation contributes to the problem.

You’re likely wondering if it would be weird to call up a friend and plan an activity. Well, your friend is probably wondering the exact same thing. All it takes is a phone call and an activity. Woodworking, golf, fishing, running, biking, watching sports, you name it.

Men have the capacity to form friendships around just about anything. But if they avoid taking the first step, the risks to their health and well-being only grow.

Instead, we can embrace the reality that men can be friends too. And it can start with anyone.