There are five times more men without friends in the United States than there were 30 years ago, according to a 2021 survey.
It also found that the percentage of men with at least six close friends has nearly halved during the same time period. And while female friendships have also fallen off a cliff, the survey found that women were twice as likely to have gotten emotional support from a friend in the previous week than men.
Social connections are a fundamental human need, right up there with food, water, and shelter. In fact, loneliness increases your risk of premature death from all causes, according to experts. If that isn’t shocking enough, consider a 2008 study that found that improving your social life is worth up to an extra millions in cash a year in terms of life satisfaction.
It’s not entirely clear why male friendships are in worse shape now than before. But men and boys, who are often socialized to be self-sufficient and stoic, have always faced obstacles to making meaningful connections.
If you’re looking to strengthen your friendships, consider the following tips:
Be proactive about staying in touch: Schedule time on your calendar to call your friends or get together IRL.
Gather around a shared interest: Invite your friends to read the same book or watch the same TV series so you can all talk about it.
Be fully present when you’re socializing: Avoid scrolling while you’re on the phone or spending time with someone in person.
Show that you care: Ask questions about their lives and how they’re doing.
Note: Men have far fewer close friends than they did 30 years ago. Having fewer friends increases the risk of loneliness, which is associated with a range of health concerns. It can be harder for men to make friends, especially because of how they’re socialized from a young age. Our sister site Psych Central put together this list of tips for maintaining friendships.