The Hidden Tragedy of Male Loneliness

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Published Dec 21, 2020, 4:34 PM

Many men prioritize the pursuit of status, power, and autonomy, which can have its advantages in moving them towards financial security and up society's ladder. But as my guest lays out in his book, Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men's Success, a focus on work over relationships can also come with significant, even tragic costs.

His name is Thomas Joiner and he's a clinical psychologist, a professor of psychology, and an investigator with the Military Suicide Research Consortium. Thomas and I begin our conversation with his work around suicide, why men commit suicide at a rate 4X higher than women, and how loneliness is a primary factor in what drives men to take their own lives. From there we talk about the problem of male loneliness in general and how it can begin in a man's thirties and get worse as he advances through middle age. We unpack the difference between subjective and objective loneliness and how you can feel alone in a crowd, as well as be something Thomas calls "alone but oblivious." We discuss how everyone is "spoiled" by relationships in their youth, and why men struggle more than women to learn to take the initiative in this regard later in life. We end our discussion with why therapy isn’t the right solution for many men who struggle with depression and loneliness, and how equally effective solutions can be found in simply making more of an effort to balance a focus on work and family with socializing and reaching out to others, and particularly, Thomas argues, in reconnecting with your friends from high school and college.

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