When it comes to being healthy, you know what to do. You lift weights a few times a week, and you run when you can. You get as much green stuff on your plate as you can at dinner. And you try not to booze it up too much. That’s enough, right? Not so fast. Being a healthy man is about more than being active or eating well. The effects of loneliness can override all your hard work and send you straight to the grave.
Lonely guys are more at risk for cancer, heart attacks, and Alzheimer’s. A 2016 Washington Post article explained that loneliness ignites some of the same triggers that cause disease. “Social isolation turned up the activity of genes responsible for inflammation and turned down the activity of genes that produce antibodies to fight infection,” the report reads. Basically, if you’re lonely, your body stops trying to keep you healthy. And that’s despite your best efforts.
Why is loneliness such an issue now?
Well, loneliness isn’t a new problem. It’s something that’s plagued men, and women too, for ages. And since the 80s, research has shown that it leads to detrimental health effects. But it’s coming back into the public conversation as technology ushers in a new isolated lifestyle.
So many of us are pursuing superficial connections with others through social media and texting. We might feel connected to people because we have followers, likes, and comments. But our digital friends can’t replace the real thing. We humans need physical interaction with other humans—not devices.
Also, most of us are tough guys. The traditional definition of masculinity doesn’t lend itself to complaining about loneliness. All the other guys you know would probably tell you to suck it up. Thus, you keep it to yourself, and it metastasizes in other ways (i.e. sickness).
What’s the solution?
The cure for loneliness is much simpler than all those other health remedies. Meet up with your buddy for a drink after work. Go to movie with your brother. Make plans to host a get-together for a small group of friends. Do something that gives you a reason to be around other people. Even if your loneliness doesn’t feel that bad, don’t misjudge it.
That glass of Guinness or the medium popcorn won’t put you in danger. But if you spend another night Netflixing and chilling by your lonesome, you could do more harm than you think.