Health Beat

Health Beat: Loneliness in middle-aged men

BOSTON - Midlife crisis is not just an excuse for guys to go out and buy a red convertible. Research shows it's the real deal. In fact, one in five Americans, especially men, falls into isolation when he lets friendships lapse, according to studies.

"Yes. I do believe that loneliness in middle-aged men is serious, is a real concern, absolutely,” said the Rev. Bradford Clark.

Clark and his parishioner, Jim Field, get together regularly because they know the importance of guy time.

"A lot of times, I find my purpose though my friendships with others, but friendships require cultivation just like a garden," Field stated.

Life-changing events, like death, divorce, or job loss, often trigger isolation, and more often in men than women.

"It's a given that women are much quicker to pick up the phone, much quicker to have lunch, much quicker to sit and talk face-to-face and guys don’t do that," Clark said.

"“Everybody doesn't want to say they are lonely because it makes you feel like a loser. You are not a loser if you are lonely," said Dr. Richard S. Schwartz, a psychiatrist.

Schwartz wrote "The Lonely American" with his wife and has consulted patients for more than 30 years.

"Most will tell you something had to give and what gave is friends. I think of myself as having friends, but I don't see them anymore, and so over time the people start to slip away and they realize the connections aren't there," Schwartz explained.

And long-term loneliness can have huge medical consequences.

"The effect of social isolation and loneliness on our health is as powerful as things like smoking, high blood pressure, obesity," Schwartz continued.

"It is like that Nike slogan" 'Just do it.' Don’t think about it. Just do it. Call somebody up and invite them to do something with you," Clark said.

It's a connection that may save your life.

Don't think texting and Facebook count. They don't. Digital friends aren't the same as face-to-face friends.

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