HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — Alright, guys - listen up. It's time to make sure you're taking care of yourself since we're right in the middle of Men's Health Week.
Loneliness is a risk factor that's more likely to impact men — and it's probably something you haven't thought of.
Even though some of us may not like to admit it, don't we all like to feel at least somewhat connected to others? Believe it or not, studies show men are more likely to fall into loneliness than women - and it can have real health impacts.
"So, loneliness has been associated with heart disease; with stroke; with cognitive problems like dementia as well,” said Michael Vilensky of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “People who report chronic or prolonged periods of loneliness have, in some studies… it's over a 25% increase in early mortality — dying earlier than expected."
Vilensky says many men experience what's called “digital isolation,” meaning they interact with people online, maybe through video games, but can't connect at a deeper level.
Breaking down the numbers, studies show 15% of men say they had no close friends in 2021. For comparison, was just 3% in 1990.
Over a quarter of men under 30 said they have no close social connections.
Mike Lambert, also known as Mike the Fitness Junkie, is a Norfolk fitness and lifestyle coach who says breaking the loop of loneliness can take some personal work first.
First, accept how you feel and that it's OK to feel that way – then, get to work.
"Write in a gratitude journal. When it comes to writing a journal, when you're writing to yourself, you're really understanding who you are. You're really accepting who you are, and now that you know who you are, you can take other initiatives to help you get out of that funk,” Lambert said.
Then, it's important to get outside the house.
In addition to joining a group, maybe a fitness class, Lambert also recommends finding time to volunteer a couple hours a week to help build connection.