How loneliness affects men

17/08/18 . Blog

The Men’s Health Forum and Food Nation answered the call to the Movember Foundation’s Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) to tackle loneliness in men with the Men’s Pie Club. The pilot project is running for two years from November 2017 and the impact of the project is being evaluated by Propel Centre for Population Health at the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Blog post 2 by Chris Stein, Men's Pie Club project team

Rolling pastry

How does loneliness affect men?

When I considered this, the first thoughts were loneliness could be linked to depression or other forms of poor mental health. And there are correlations but there are many more, some pretty surprising.

In 2010, academics Holt-Lundstad, Smith and Layton conducted a meta-analysis of studies on loneliness that showed, “the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.” Comparable mortality risks to smoking and drinking? Potentially more lethal than physical inactivity and obesity? Are we not constantly hit with messages to move more and eat less? I can’t recall the last time I saw a public health message saying “Catch up with a friend to improve your health”!

Again the physical health impact of loneliness is reflected cross-culturally. Dr Jaremka from Ohio State University, showed there was a correlation between self-reported loneliness heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and an elevated risk of attempted suicide. 

I am not going to labour a point here. It is enough to say that loneliness affects a number of people, both physically and mentally.

What is the Social Innovation Challenge? 

The Movember Foundation is well aware of these challenges and are well placed to take a global view of the issue to better understand what could work, both at a country level and a global level, to address the issue. “We know that in their 30s, men tend to start letting go of key relationships,” says Craig Martin, Global Director, Mental Health & Suicide Prevention, The Movember Foundation. “This is having a far-reaching and very negative impact because social relationships are a key protective factor for men against anxiety, depression and potentially suicide. We need to tackle this issue, and fresh ideas are needed because the status quo isn’t working for men.”

And so, the Movember Foundation called for innovative, outside-the-box ideas that could lead to game-changing products or services to increase the quantity and quality of men’s relationships, thereby strengthening their sense of belonging to improve mental wellbeing.

The Men’s Health Forum teamed up with Food Nation to put together a funding bid to launch their innovative idea, but to find out more you’ll have to wait until the next blog post.

In the meantime, why not catch up with a friend to improve your health! 

The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.