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Men Are Lonely. We Explore Some Reasons Why, And What Can Be Done About It

A silhouette of a man, wearing what appears to be a jacket, at dusk looking out over a body of water.
In the midst of a loneliness epidemic, many Americans are lonely. But men — though hard for them to admit it — tend to be the loneliest.
Lukas Rychvalsky
Via Unsplash
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#244: For the next installment of our series on How to Not Be Lonely in LA, we're honing in on one demographic: Men. In all the conversations we’ve been having with people about loneliness and human it with experts or every day Angelenos …this theme kept coming up: In a nation in the midst of a loneliness epidemic, A LOT of people are lonely. But men, typically, are the loneliest. How To LA producer Megan Botel unpacks the reasons why men tend to be lonelier than women, the importance of male friendships, and how men can create meaningful connections.

When Dave Pidancet's third son was born early last year, he knew something had to change.

With now three children under 6, he struggled with feelings of isolation and loneliness as a stay-at-home dad in Mar Vista. He found himself going long stretches of time surrounded by kids, not interacting with another adult.

“For men especially, it's a little embarrassing to admit that we're lonely or that we need a friend,” Pidancet says. “We might invent some reasons for why we're not reaching out and getting out of the house, like we’re too busy, our kids need us, the house is falling apart.”

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But as research about the nationwide loneliness epidemic mounted, he decided to take action and “push through the awkwardness,” as he put it. He attempted to talk about these feelings with other dads.

It was within these conversations that he realized nearly every man he spoke to was, to some extent, in the same pain.

“It's almost like an unspoken ache that we might have,” he says. “Men really value their independence and their ability to take care of other people. In general, men are reluctant to ask for help.”

How, and to what extent, are men struggling?

The Brief

In the midst of a loneliness epidemic, many Americans are lonely. But men — though hard for them to admit it — tend to be the loneliest.

“Many men, and especially younger men, feel disconnected and very often uncertain of their purpose in life,” said Richard Reeves, writer, professor and president of the American Institute for Boys and Men. “They have fewer friends, they're less likely to be in a romantic relationship, and they're unclear about their path.”

A 2023 report from the organization Equimondo found that two-thirds of surveyed men between ages 18 and 23 say “no one really knows me.” According to a 2021 report by the Survey Center on American Life, one in seven men say they have no close friends. For comparison, 30 years ago, more than half of men surveyed reported having at least six close friends. (Some have called it a “friendship recession.”)

This isn’t limited to one subgroup of men either. While the root causes may differ, these feelings of loneliness are felt across different age groups as well as racial, ethnic, cultural and sexual identities: Black men report feelings of isolation as do Latino men and men who identify as LGBTQ. And 15% of young men under the age of 30 say they don’t have a single close friend.

Such feelings can lead to other mental, psychological and physical challenges: alcohol and/or drug abuse; depression. Men are four times more likely to take their own lives compared to women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. (Men over the age of 85 are 17 times more likely to take their own lives than women of a similar age).

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“Although a lot of men will put a brave face on it when you really talk to them about it, what you'll find is that face is very often masking a lot of uncertainty and isolation,” Reeves says. “Which put together can lead to a real loss of purpose.”

What's underneath male loneliness

So why are men so lonely these days?

The answer is complex and somewhat amorphous. But some point to one simple trend: The dwindling number of places for men to make friends with other men.

“A lot of those places we used to hang out or congregate at have kind of eroded,” says Shannon Carpenter, author of The Ultimate Stay-At-Home Dad.

As a stay-at-home dad of three, Carpenter struggled to find advice for fathers of all walks of life who wanted to be more involved with their families. After joining a local dads group — which he’s now been a part of for 16 years — he saw that fathers were all yearning for some direction and companionship in a new era of gender dynamics.

As women have become more independent and social norms have changed — “which is a good thing,” Carpenter emphasizes — some men have been left feeling adrift, unsure of how they now fit in, he says.

“And this is not a problem for women to fix,” he says. “It’s a problem for men to fix.”

Over the past several decades, the spaces that once anchored men’s lives — church, work, male-only social clubs, etc. — have become less central, or in some cases, obsolete. Disconnected from these institutions that once provided naturally borne friendships with other men, many men are now struggling to find connections.

“We have underestimated the extent to which the institutions of the workplace and the family, maybe even some religious institutions have actually provided spaces where male friendships were formed almost automatically,” Reeves says. “To some extent the male loneliness crisis is a reflection of a kind of broader institutional crisis that faces many men.”

Research shows that men do in fact have a harder time making friends and deep connections compared to women. Reeves adds that historically, friendships have been seen as “women’s work,” with women traditionally acting as a sort of social organizer for the family.

“As that's becoming less and less true, that has exposed the fact that maybe many men lack the skills or the institutions or the habits that are required to sustain those friendships,” he says. “What you're seeing is just this whole period in which men are having to figure this out for themselves in a way that we just haven't in previous generations.”

Rise of men's groups

In the midst of this epidemic within an epidemic, one thing is clear: Men need other men.

Given the troubled, sexist history of some places where men have historically fraternized, it’s easy to scoff at the idea that men need more spaces to gather to be around other men, Reeves warns.

But men really do need help. “We have to address the root causes or things don’t change,” Carpenter says. “And that’s a hard thing to do, because then you have to convince men to be vulnerable.”

For many, help looks like joining a men’s support group.

Pidancet, who is now co-organizer of L.A. Dads Group, which meets several times a month for outings with other local dads like museums, movies, play dates at a park with the kids or a “guy’s night out,” says the group has helped him feel less isolated in his role as a stay-at-home dad.

“Getting involved with the dad group helps me realize that I have something to offer the fellow parents in my life, going beyond just providing for my family,” he says. “It's brought kind of an extra layer of purpose.”

For dads and other men out there who may be struggling, Pidancet encourages them to be intentional — and “a bit bolder than you’re comfortable with” — about building relationships.

Four light-skinned men pose, smiling, with their young children — four in total, including two babies — at the Silver Lake Recreation Center.
Members of L.A. Dads Group out with their kids.
David Pidancet
L.A. Dads Group

“Actually reach out to send that text message to your friend you haven't heard from in a long time, or to strike up a conversation with that dad that you saw at the pickup,” he urges. “That other person is probably looking for the same thing that you are. He's also looking for connection.”

Beyond making a point to reach out to others, men must also be careful to not hyperfocus their lives on work, Carpenter says, “which is easy for them to do.”

“Work is honorable, it gets you where you want to be, but you cannot neglect yourself when you do it,” he adds. “Carve out time for yourself and go find your people.

The importance of fostering male friendships goes beyond just benefitting the men involved, Reeves says. These connections are where men can learn the emotional skills to be good partners, parents, employers and thrive in other roles that are crucial for a healthy society.

“There's a real danger that we're missing some of the fragile beauty of male friendship,” he says. “Male friendships perhaps require a little bit more work and a little bit more support, but by God, is it worth it.”

Other stories in this series
    • Loneliness In Cities Is Real. Four Ways To Work Through It.
    • Dating In LA Can Suck. Ever Try Speed Dating? Here Are Some Tips
    • From A ‘Lonely Road’ To An Artist Haven: How This Music Community Helps Angelenos Feel Less Alone

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