The male loneliness epidemic

Written by: Cami Ansley | Copy Editor

Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide

On May 3, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned the public about “our epidemic of loneliness and isolation.” Within the past year, a focus has shifted to the loneliness faced by men, coining the argument that a “male loneliness epidemic” has arisen. Despite what the name may suggest, the “loneliness” attributed to this epidemic is not solely limited to romantic relationships.

For one, research conducted in 2021 found that 15% of men claim that they have no close friends, a staggering 12% increase since 1990. A study published by Equimundo in 2023 found that a majority of men, ranging from older Millennials to Generation Z, agree with the statement, “No one really knows me well,” with Generation Z having the highest percentage of agreement among all respondents. In this same publication, a majority of men stated that they only have one or two close friends in their area that they feel they can confide in outside of their family. 

In the realm of romantic relationships, men are more likely to be single and have less sex than women. A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that six in ten men under the age of 30 are single, nearly double the rate of women at the time. The Equimundo study found that roughly one in five men are either not looking for a relationship or are unable to find sexual partners. 

These statistics about loneliness have been connected to poor mental and physical health. Specifically, greater risk of premature death, cardiovascular illness, anxiety, dementia, depression and stroke have all been associated with loneliness. 40% of the men surveyed in the Equimundo study had met the screening standards for depressive symptoms, while 44% had experienced suicidal ideation within the last two weeks.

In addition, men are nearly four times more likely than women to commit suicide, accounting for nearly 80% of all suicides despite them making up only 50% of the population. In fact, the U.S. male suicide rate reached its peak of 14.3 per 100,000 men in 2022.

In light of the emergence and popularization of the male loneliness epidemic, there has been discourse regarding its legitimacy, specifically in regards to the exclusive focus on men when it comes to discussing the general loneliness epidemic. Disparities in loneliness have been found to age, race, financial status, sexuality and disability, but, according to some critics, not for gender. The measurement of loneliness as well as the interpretation of select studies and statistics has also been cited as reasons for skepticism. 

Regardless of its specificity to the male population or not, Dr. Vivek Murthy’s publication about the epidemic of loneliness has been acknowledged as a cause for concern.

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