Lonliness can set men’s health apart


Loneliness can be debilitating, especially as we age, and Michael Whitehead wants to do something about it.

Mr Whitehead is the Men’s Health Clinical Nurse Consultant at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, and recently presented at the Global Action on Men’s Health and the World Congress of Public Health.

This week is Men’s Health Week and features the theme; “building healthy environments for men and boys”, and he says dealing with loneliness is one part of the solution.

“Cardiovascular disease is heightened in men who are lonely, as well as mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety

“Loneliness is not something we typically screen for in hospitals. A person can be seen with a health complaint and we’ll treat the symptoms, but the social drivers that are affecting this are often ¬– almost exclusively – missed.”

Most Australians will experience loneliness at some point in their lives and about 33% reported an episode of loneliness between 2001 and 2009, with 40% experiencing more than one episode.

Living alone and not being in a relationship are substantial risk factors for social isolation and loneliness, yet the 2016 Census found 25% of Australians live alone.

Living alone does not necessarily mean you are lonely, but many people, particularly men who do live in solo households, can report lower social connections.

Mr Whitehead says it is widely acknowledged that as men age, their close friendship circle reduces in size, which is not the same (and often the opposite) for women.

Those who don’t have social connections, can at times, fall into depressive states and find it difficult to navigate their way out or seek help.

Activities such as volunteering, joining an interest group or even a dog park are simple ways men can begin to broaden their social circle.

“For men, often the longest mile is from their front door to another door,” he says. “We need to strengthen the ability for men make that short journey across the loneliness divide and reap the rewards that social connection brings.”

“Our society is improved when we begin to develop connections that lead to friendship, and which then add additional meaning into our lives,” he says. Continue reading

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