The seemingly unending pandemic has raised awareness of the physical and emotional consequences of isolation. Men tend to struggle with isolation and loneliness more than women.
Research suggests that a focus on the accumulation of wealth and material goods results in less overall happiness in life and less satisfaction in intimate relationships (Baker, 2017). The Harvard Study of Adult Development (Harvard, 2017) followed a group of men for eight decades. Throughout the study, at different points in their lives, the men were asked, “Who would you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or afraid?” Those men who had someone to turn to were happier in their lives and their marriages, and also physically healthier over time.
Close relationships with other people have more of an impact on our physical health and longevity than even our genes do (Mineo, 2017, Vadantam, 2018). A satisfying relationship life can extend longevity by up to 22 percent. Loneliness is a risk factor comparable to smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure (Holt-Lunstad, et al., 2010, Hawkley, et al, 2010, House, et al., 1988, Murphy, et al., 2017). Loneliness in men is correlated with cardiovascular disease and stroke; 80 percent of successful suicides are men, and one of the leading contributing factors is loneliness (Murphy, et al., 2017). While many physicians ask questions about risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption during an annual physical, the research suggests they should also be asking about how satisfying their patient’s closest relationships are.