Middle-Aged Men Need More Friends

Aug 22, 2017

This program originally broadcast on March 23, 2017.

Men and friendship. By middle age, many have too little of it. And it’s a threat to men’s health.

Men can be funny about friendship. They have friends, buddies, from high school or college or later. But by middle age, if you really look at those friendships, a lot of them are sort of on the shelf. Work and family take a lot of time and guys can drift into a wider social isolation. That can have health consequences down the line. The U.S. surgeon general says isolation is a bigger American health problem than cancer or heart disease. This hour On Point, what’s up with men and friends? — Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Billy Baker, feature writer for the Boston Globe. (@billy_baker)

Dr. Richard Schwartz, practicing psychiatrist, who teaches psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Co-author, with Jacqueline Olds, of “The Lonely American.”

Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General. (@surgeon_general)

From Tom’s Reading List

Boston Globe Magazine: The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness. — “Beginning in the 1980s, Schwartz says, study after study started showing that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender, and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s. One study found that it can be as much of a long-term risk factor as smoking.”

Boston Globe Magazine:My two weeks as America’s No. 1 middle-aged loser — “As mapped out in my article, disconnecting from friends is incredibly bad for your long-term health. Shockingly bad. Like ‘this reporter sounds like he’s laying it on thick’ bad. I was not. Study after study after study all tell you the same thing.”

New York Times: The Challenges of Male Friendships — “Consciously or otherwise, many men believe that talking about personal matters with other men is not manly. The result is often less intimate, more casual friendships between men, making the connections more tenuous and harder to sustain.”

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.