Men – here’s an interesting challenge. Now that thanks to the promptings of the Prince Harry you’ve dabbled with “opening up”, how about putting into words something that feels genuinely awkward and shaming, such as admitting to loneliness?
If you can find anyone to open up to, of course.
Research published by the Royal Voluntary Society earlier this month pinpointed the age at which men experienced “the most” loneliness was 35.
While this “early onset” loneliness utterly contradicts the stereotype of the condition being the exclusive preserve of the elderly, gazing sadly out at their gardens, remembering their late pals and desperately trying to recall their names, perhaps it shouldn’t come as such as a surprise.
My own research suggests that 35 is the age at which many people’s horizons undergo a devastating transformation, and life switches from being something filled with opportunities that stretches out ahead like a road, to something full of problems stacked up in front of you, more like a wall.
This comes from a combination of increased responsibility at work, leading to longer hours and greater stress; relationships that may have generated attention-gobbling offspring, which in turn require a move to the suburbs or worse; longer commutes, a total embargo on free time apart from precious seconds squandered staring into the mirror wondering where did it (ie your hair) all go?
The condition is also a creeping and subtle one, which only fully reveals its depressing face once a person has neglected friendships for so long that they have not just been suspended, but cancelled altogether.
Other revelations in the report are that seven per cent of men say they have no friends at all, and eight per cent have no close friends. Only 28 per cent see and speak to family and friends regularly.
“Eight million men reportedly feel lonely at least once a week.”
Like most reports, the document is long on press-generating stats, but short on bright ideas on what to do about it, although it suggests a visit to www.jocoxloneliness.org should you wish to join in a generous-hearted attempt to reduce loneliness levels among others.
Announcing the report at the beginning of May, Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who co-chaired the commission and described loneliness as “a silent epidemic”, announced how during May her organisation would be shining “a light on the practical steps that can be taken to combat it.”
As of May 29, however, that “light” appears to have only been shone on the predicament of elderly people, and then rather dimly, with advice such as “Look after yourself.”
As for all those friendship-deficient 35-year-old men – you’re on your own. But then you knew that anyway.
A momentary lift of the spirits
Distract yourself for a few minutes at least with this excellent Harry Nilsson song on the subject of one being the loneliest number, performed here by Three Dog Night
and by Aimee Mann, from the soundtrack from the fabulous Magnolia, here.