15 Unique Ways Loneliness Affects Men

15 Unique Ways Loneliness Affects Men

Loneliness can impact anyone regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, or any other metric. However, experiencing prolonged isolation and despondency can be particularly problematic for men, whose mental health and well-being are often overlooked or downplayed. Here are some unique ways loneliness impacts men — if you notice these signs in the guys in your life, offer them a bit of help and support.

1. It can seriously impact their physical health.

Restless man waking up early with headache after rough night

Loneliness in men isn’t just an emotional issue; it often manifests physically. It can lead to serious conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. In fact, men have a 30% increased risk of having a stroke or getting coronary artery disease as a result of loneliness. Neglecting self-care routines, such as regular exercise and proper nutrition, becomes more common. Poor sleep quality often accompanies loneliness, exacerbating physical health problems. This combination of factors shows that loneliness isn’t just a state of mind; it has tangible effects on the body.

2. The mental health risks are elevated.

young man with headache on couch

The silent battle with loneliness can significantly elevate mental health risks for men. It’s closely linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. The tendency to internalize these feelings rather than seeking help only intensifies their impact. It’s like carrying an invisible weight that gets heavier over time, affecting overall mental well-being.

3. Work performance can be affected.

young bored programmer working on desktop PC in the office.

Feeling lonely can derail a man’s performance at work. Concentration may falter, motivation could dip, and engagement with work tasks often wanes. It’s as if their professional drive is overshadowed by a cloud of isolation. This drop in productivity can lead to conflicts with colleagues, furthering the sense of isolation in the workplace.

4. It can trigger unhealthy coping habits.

Portrait of male sitting indoors and eating big tasty hamburger full of mischievous calories and harmful cholesterol. Person consuming portion of junk food

To combat feelings of loneliness, men might adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms. This could manifest as overindulging in food, alcohol, or sinking into prolonged periods of inactivity and screen time. These habits offer a temporary escape but ignore the underlying issue. Over time, they can lead to additional problems, creating a cycle of dependency and further isolation.

5. It weakens social skills.

young man hoodie mustache

Prolonged loneliness can dull a man’s social skills. It’s similar to losing touch with a skill or hobby – the less you practice, the more challenging it becomes. This can create a vicious cycle where loneliness leads to more social withdrawal, making future interactions increasingly awkward and reinforcing the cycle of isolation.

6. It can skew their perceptions of their relationships.

Loneliness can warp how men perceive their relationships. They might start to feel that their friends aren’t really supportive, or that their family doesn’t understand them. This altered perception can lead to further withdrawal from social interactions, deepening the sense of loneliness. It’s a distortion of reality, fueled by the isolation they feel.

7. It takes away their sense of purpose.

man standing against wall outside

Loneliness can chip away at a man’s sense of purpose and direction. Without regular interaction and feedback from others, it’s easy to lose sight of personal goals and ambitions. This loss of direction can lead to a feeling of just drifting through life, without any clear focus or motivation. The lack of purpose can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the less they engage with the world, the less meaningful their daily activities may seem.

8. Stress and anxiety levels shoot through the roof.

man on couch covering head with palm

Dealing with chronic loneliness often results in heightened stress and anxiety. Without a support network to share concerns or decompress with, everyday challenges can seem more daunting. This constant state of heightened tension can take a toll on both mental and physical health, making it harder to maintain a balanced, calm state of mind.

9. They adopt a negative outlook on life.

Experiencing prolonged loneliness can lead a man to develop a more negative outlook on life. The world may start to seem like a more hostile, uncaring place. This pessimism can act as a barrier to forming new relationships or seeking out positive experiences, reinforcing the cycle of loneliness and further tainting their view of the world.

10. It creates barriers to new relationships.

Portrait of a young bearded man

Loneliness can erect invisible barriers that make forming new relationships more challenging. There might be a fear of rejection or a belief that no one could understand them. These barriers can prevent reaching out and forming meaningful connections, keeping the cycle of loneliness going strong.

11. It affects their decision-making abilities.

A business man in a white shirt drinking coffee and looking out the window of his office.

Long-term loneliness can cloud a man’s decision-making abilities. When you’re feeling isolated, it’s tougher to think clearly and make well-considered decisions. There’s a tendency to either rush into choices impulsively or become paralyzed by indecision. This can lead to regrettable decisions in various aspects of life, from career moves to personal choices.

12. It decreases empathy and understanding.

Pensive young man looking off in the distance while out for a walk alone in a park in spring

Ironically, loneliness can decrease a man’s ability to empathize and understand others. Being isolated can lead to a more inward-focused perspective, making it harder to see things from another person’s viewpoint. This lack of empathy can make social interactions more challenging and less rewarding, further discouraging efforts to connect with others.

13. It intensifies feelings of inadequacy.

Portrait of a confident young man standing outside with his arms crossed. Man with bald head and beard wearing eyeglasses staring at camera.

Battling loneliness often comes with an intensified sense of inadequacy or self-doubt. Men might start to question their worth or value in social settings, believing that they’re not interesting or likable enough. This can lead to a damaging self-image and hesitancy to engage in social situations, fearing further rejection or disappointment.

14. Their sleep patterns are disrupted.

Above view of depressed man, lying in bed and staring. Sad tired male waking up late in morning before starting the day early. Stressed exhausted young guy thinking about problems and difficulties

A common yet often overlooked impact of loneliness is disrupted sleep. Men facing loneliness might find themselves struggling with insomnia or experiencing restless, unsatisfying sleep. This lack of quality sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and a decreased ability to concentrate during the day. It becomes a cycle where the fatigue from poor sleep exacerbates the feeling of loneliness, creating a challenging situation to break free from.

15. They rely on technology for social interaction.

Relax, search and phone with man in bedroom for social media, streaming and communication. Text message, network and internet with male browsing in bed at home for contact, technology and reading

In a bid to fill the void of loneliness, some men might turn excessively to technology for social interaction. This can mean hours spent on social media, online forums, or video games as a substitute for face-to-face interactions. While technology can offer a temporary fix, it often lacks the depth and quality of real-life connections, potentially leading to a more profound sense of isolation in the long run.

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Sinead Cafferty is a writer who has authored four collections of poetry: "Dust Settling" (2012); "The Space Between" (2014); "Under, Under, Over" (2016); and "What You Can't Have" (2020). She's currently working on her first novel, a dystopian romance set in the 22nd Century, that's due out in 2024.

Sinead has an MFA in creative writing from NYU and has had residencies with the Vermont Studio Center and the National Center for Writing.