Why men are lonelier in America than elsewhere


Are isolated men driving American women up the wall? A recent sketch on “Saturday Night Live”, which refers to studies concluding that males in America are increasingly friendless, suggests that they are. A young woman, frustrated by her boyfriend’s inability to open up to anyone else, takes him by the hand and leads him to a “man park” (like the dog version) where, after a shy start, he finds fellow males to make friends with. Some viewers disliked the likening of men to dogs, but the sketch, which went viral online, illustrates fresh concerns about an old worry: the loneliness of American men.

As people in rich countries work longer hours, marry later and spend more time with their children, not friends, research suggests loneliness is increasing. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found a direct link between social-media usage and loneliness. More time spent online means less time building friendships.

The problem may be particularly severe in America. A large international study by British academics found that people in individualistic countries (a measure on which America scores highest) reported greater loneliness. America also has one of the highest divorce rates; men may be more likely to lose mutual friends after a split. A strong work ethic and geographical mobility (meaning friendships are liable to be lost or weakened as people relocate) is likely to exacerbate the problem.

A survey published in 2021 by the Survey Centre on American Life, part of the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank, found that friendship groups have shrunk in the past three decades. The decline has been particularly marked among men. In 1990, 55% of American men reported having at least six close friends; today only 27% do. The survey found that 15% of men have no close friendships at all, a fivefold increase since 1990

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