Boys’ Night Is Vital To Men’s Health & Wellness: Invest In A Bromance

Saturday Night Live featured a spoof about the lack of male friendships and socialization in Man Park that highlighted men’s challenges in male bonding.  Although it was a bit exaggerated, there is truth in the scenario.  The skit has had over 4 million views on YouTube and is brimming with comments of males relating to the underlying message.  The truth is, male relationships are beneficial to health and wellness, and men suffer mental and physical ailments without them.  Sadly, the pandemic has amplified male solitude.

Male Solitude on Health & Wellness

The United Health Foundation and AARP reported a staggering one-third of adults did not interact with members outside their household for months at a time before the pandemic. In addition, the pandemic exacerbates male isolation to the extent that one in every five males reports not having a close friend to talk to—the lack of male relationships and loneliness increase mental and physical illness risks.  

Most men will not seek help for their symptoms due to cultural conditioning.  This is problematic because it allows diseases and mental states to persist and rapidly deteriorate health and wellness.  According to a recent study, chronic loneliness predicts the onset of Alzheimer’s. Loneliness leads to depression which is often undiagnosed in men.  Unfortunately, when suicidal thoughts seep into the mix, men (far more than women) utilize lethal extremes of self-harm.  Positive male relationships can have a significant impact on depression and suicide.

Several studies have demonstrated higher mortality rates for men that live alone or suffer from social isolation.  Loneliness physically changes immune responsiveness and effectively cripples it from fighting off diseases and decreases vaccine efficacy.  Male isolation increases the likelihood of:

  • Obesity
  • Drug/Drinking addictions
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cognitive decline
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes

A sobering study analyzed data from 3.5 million people over 35 and discovered loneliness and isolation increased premature death by 32%.  If that didn’t convince you of the importance of male relationships, how about this staggering statistic:

Suicide among males age 50 and over rose 50% between 1999 and 2010

Male relationships are essential throughout the entire lifespan; however, adolescence and midlife have a sharp increase in the need for a support system.  During middle age, men begin to feel the pain of absence and loss of male camaraderie.

Male Relationships Buffer A Mid-Life Crisis

We have heard the horror stories of mid-life crises with men spending money on fast cars and younger women.  Mid-life is when we measure our life by what we have accomplished and determine its value – and we compare it to other people’s.  We used to feel invincible, and now we acknowledge our mortality as our physical prowess is recognizably different.  

There are resources for women (and women seek out these resources), but the same cannot be said for men who suffer in silence.  Cultural barriers of what masculinity look like and ‘manning up’ deflect male mental health problems to fill the void with a sports car. Unfortunately, it is harder to make friends as you get older, and most male friendships fall to the wayside after high school and college.

Why Is It Hard For Men To Bond?

It is commonly said that women’s friendships are face-to-face while male friendships are shoulder-to-shoulder. In a recent article, Healthline outlined a few reasons why men have problems finding and maintaining relationships with other men.

Men Bond Through Experiences

We see it daily; usually, through sports or fandom, men will form a group. Then, as quickly as the group is created, it is dissolved at the end of the function, like it has served its purpose.

Sharing? Who Has Time For That

Women will get together to spill the latest gossip and discuss their problems over coffee.  Men think getting together to ‘discuss’ rather than ‘fix’ problems wastes time.  Talking it out also does not flow well with alpha males and masculinity of getting the job done.

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Men prioritize work and marriage.  Responsibility comes before self-care or friendships.  Men will detach from friendships to focus on family life and climb the corporate ladder to provide for them and achieve professional ambitions.

Men Aren’t Wired for Connection – Literally

Studies have shown that men’s brains are from Mars, and women are from Venus.  Neural scans have shown that men’s brains focus on action while women’s are more focused on personal connections.

Men are not allowed to show emotions or be vulnerable.  Societal expectations and cultural boundaries do not align with male relationship needs outside marriage.  Ironically, movies and TV series make male bonding seem effortless and plentiful, but that is not the case despite the many benefits of having close friendships throughout your lifespan.

The Benefits of Male Friendships

Men need emotional connections with other males to blow off steam, work through problems, and decrease loneliness.  Studies have shown increased well-being physically and mentally when men have close friendships where they feel understood.  Men with close male friendships have exhibited:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • It keeps you cognitively sharp
  • Provides a sense of security (less anxiety)
  • Lower body mass/more physically fit
  • Less likelihood of depression
  • Reduces stress
  • Support network & anti-loneliness
  • Live up to 22% longerREAD THAT AGAIN

Dr. Happy said it best:

“It’s good for men to have male friendships because it will improve their lives in almost every area,” he says. “Friendships help us feel connected and add to our sense of belonging, which counteracts feelings of loneliness and isolation which are, quite literally, killers.”

Men need to establish a work, home, and friend balance and try to stay connected with friends. An excellent way to do that is by setting a specific time and day every week to get together and do something.  

Set an appointment with yourself to nurture a friend network. Consider it an investment into your health and wellness. In addition, having relationships outside the home can improve relationships in the house by taking the burden off the spouse to be our everything and live up to unrealistic expectations. 

Where Can Men Go To Find Friends?

Although there are no Man Parks that I know of, there are still great places to meet and mingle with like-minded individuals and groups. The digital age has helped men connect to friends in-person and virtually.  A few examples are:

  • Meetup
  • Game Channels or Intramural Clubs
  • Sports leagues
  • Jeep groups
  • Gyms, running, biking groups
  • Motorcycle clubs
  • Mensgroup.com
  • YMCA
  • Volunteer
  • Enroll in a class at a community college or university

Men need to be able to reflect on their life, choices, goals, relationships, and challenges with other men.  Male friends aid in this self-development.  I am a woman and would never expect a man to understand me thoroughly, and I need that connection with other women. Likewise, men need that connection and time to BE men and immerse themselves in whatever that definition is for them.

If you need support or advice, we are here to help guide you through it.  You can set an appointment any time by clicking [here].

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