Smoking 25 Cigarettes a Day is as Harmful as Loneliness?
On the eve of my Mancation with some of friends of mine, a 7-day Timeless Trekker backpacking journey in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. I wanted to delve into how same sex friendships enhance mental and physical health. I believe that these friendships take “pressure” off the marriage to be “everything” because friends are meeting some of the social, psychological and spiritual needs.
Humans have been naturally social for thousands of years. Yet modern life has reduced the level of interaction between male friends in quality and quantity.
In the UK, according to a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, “10% of people often feel lonely, a third have a close friend or relative who they think is very lonely, and half think that people are getting lonelier in general.”
Massachusetts professors Olds and Schwartz in their writing, The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century explains there is a current focus among adult men to build stronger marriages at the expense of other social connections. They point to a current tendency among adults to build stronger, more intimate marriages at the expense of almost all other social connections, (and) they observed a deep sense of loneliness. “Almost every father we spoke with explained that he had lost contact with most of his male friends,” they write. And lest you believe family is company enough, the 2005 Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging showed that family relationships have almost no impact on longevity. Friendships, by contrast, boosted life span as much as 22 percent.
Good friends are good for your health!
In 1988 a review of five studies showed that loneliness can be linked to an earlier death, “…people with fewer social relationships die earlier on average than those with more social relationships”
Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University, in a study sponsored by Guinness, learned that to maintain a healthy level of interaction, men should hang out with other men, once or twice a week.
The report says that men, who maintain social groups are healthier, recover from illness more quickly and tend to be more generous. Despite the findings, two out of five men claim they manage to meet their friends only once a week and a further third struggle to catch up that frequently. Why is this?
Worldwide, the loneliest men are white American men. Is it because male friends are more acceptable in the other countries? Have we taken on the “that’s not manly to go hang out one on one with a guy friend”.
How many friends do you need?
About 4 or 5 male friends is a good start.
Dunbar explained, “Men, on average, spend just less than half of their social time with an inner circle of four to five close mates – and research suggests that this is linked directly to the banter that such a group inspires and its benefits.
Through empirical studies, it has been proven that laughter is much less likely to occur if a social circle becomes bigger than five – and, because of laughter’s ability to produce the endorphin surges that give a sense of well-being, men may be subconsciously drawn towards ‘hanging out’ in social circles of this size.”
And meeting often is a good way to ensure friendships. Once or twice a week is what Dunbar suggests, of course over drinks was probably Guinness’ hope. But think about it, how can you today take a step toward creating and maintaining guy friends.
Theme trips are one of them. Mancations or wilderness camping trips are great ways to connect with guy friends. Or goals, like a marathon that you can work out together and share some time.
Trust me it takes the pressure off the spouse to meet all your needs. Now go show this to your wife why its important for you to go camping!