I’m sure most of you reading this article can relate — as we get older, our circle of friends tends to dwindle. While this is universally true for most people, it seems to be more pertinent and happen more often for men. Men often attribute this social isolation and loss of friends to putting their effort into their career and family. While we may achieve goals in these arenas, there are consequences to a lack of social support and engagement. A recent NPR show examined this issue. Find the full story here.
Briefly, what research has found is that middle-aged men appear to be increasingly at risk of depression and suicide. Their suicide rate has increased over the last 20-years, while every other population of people has seen a sharp decrease in suicide rates. While there is no definitive evidence that the increase in suicide rates is tied to social isolation, there is long-standing evidence that social isolation affects our mental and physical health. Researchers have even concluded that having weak social relationships poses an even greater mortality risk than issues such as obesity.
Spending time building and nurturing friendships might be just as important to your health as eating right and exercising. To get to a place where we prioritize friendships and social connections, major changes need to happen. But we also ignore smaller, everyday opportunities to connect with others.
Other research has explored why we might not engage in much social interaction these days..or what keeps us from actually connecting. While, of course, many reasons have to do with technology.
The ways in which we interact has changed – social media, less face-to-face contact. Entertainment has become more private. You know, we watch a movie at home rather than going to a theater, for example.
But, beyond that….it seems that what stops us from connecting is not that we anticipate a social interaction to be unpleasant, but that we have anxiety about starting social interaction with others. Many of us have a fear of rejection, and a normal approach to mitigate that is to avoid situations where there is any chance of a negative interaction.
So, what can we, the Padre Cadre community, take away from this story? Take a purposeful look at your social life. Are you fostering strong, enduring, and meaningful connections with people in your life? It is one of the most preventive things we can do in terms of taking care of our mental health and well-being. I challenge you to get together with that group of friends you haven’t hung out with in a while. Call up an friend from school and check-in. Or, given the reason that Padre Cadre exists, connect with some guys on Padre Cadre!