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Beyond Blue: Men's Social Connectedness

Men may find it difficult to maintain social connections throughout their middle years (30 -65 years). This research aims to increase understanding for how men perceive and experience social connectedness, identify the tools that will assist men to develop stronger ties and what causes them to lose their social connections.

 

Men and Social Connectedness

Research shows that feeling a sense of being valued, "belonging", whether to a large family, a network of friends or a volunteer organisation is related to better health and lower mortality rates. Social connectedness has a positive impact on general health and mental wellbeing.

Loneliness and social isolation is detrimental to our health and may lead to depression, anxiety and higher rates of suicide. Research in this area shows that men aged 30 - 65 have smaller social networks and experience more loneliness than women in the same age bracket.

beyondblue commissioned this research project to:

  • highlight social connectedness as a protective factor for mental health and wellbeing
  • identify the barriers impacting on the social connectedness of men in their middle years
  • identify the factors which would facilitate social connectedness of men in their middle years
  • use the evidence from this research to inform future involvement in initiatives and strategies to
  • help men in their middle years to connect socially.

The project adopted a multi-stage, multi-method approach, consisting of: a review of existing literature and interviews with thought leaders and practitioners; qualitative discussion groups; a quantitative online survey with 4,100 men; online discussion boards; and ethnographic case studies.

Barriers to social connectedness

A few key findings:

  • Men who felt periods of loneliness had formed friendships in groups based on common interests or purposes, and had lost contact with these friends when ceasing to participate.
  • Changes in family circumstances such as finances, mental health, injury, work circumstances and lack of time to maintain friendships contributed to lower social connectedness.
  • Men face practical barriers, such as finance and health issues to increasing their social connectedness, and any programs need to take these restraints into consideration.

Suggested intervention programs and tools

A few suggestions:

  • Programs and training need to be designed to assist men to build resilience for those at risk of disconnection (e.g recently unemployed men).
  • Assisting men by guiding them into social channels to allow them to build new friendships and social networks.
  • Reminding men that they need social connections as well as the need to devote time to develop and maintain male-male relationships.
  • Programs and tools that assist men to develop stronger community networks.

Resources Available

 

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The Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre received funding from the Australian Government.

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