How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men
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How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men

The Hidden Brain Podcast

The podcast provides a great overview of how American society raises men. The speakers explore their own personal experiences in how they have been raised and socialized to grow differently from women and embrace different viewpoints and ideas about how men should behave and live life. There is also a look into how it occurs that boys grow having great social lives and friends while young; but this soon takes a turn as they grow into adulthood, where their social circles narrow and thus end up with weakened support systems socially due to the reduction in number and strength of friendships that they develop. To put all these issues into perspective, Paul Kugelman is interviewed and his experiences used as a representative of what is actually happening on a wider scale. Paul Kugelman reveals that he had great friendships while young, but dwindled as he grew older and admits how difficult this fact is to accept. Researchers agree that it is possible for adult men to build great and lasting friendships; though this is complicated by the manner in which young boys and adolescents are brought up culturally. Boys are raised in a manner that makes them believe that they should embrace independence and should not express weakness or vulnerability as this is seen as unmanly. This view is greatly negative as it discourages men from seeking help when in need, and most end up lonely and depressed. To better understand this, the podcast touches on the following three important sectors: the Harvard Study of Adult Development, researches on suicide rates, and Niobe Way’s book; Deep Secrets.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is a study that has been running for about 75 years alongside the Grant Study that seeks to understand the predictors of healthy living. It is a longitudinal study that has been following the 268 physically and mentally healthy sophomore students of Harvard College of the classes of 1939 to 1944. The research has established, among other things, that: alcoholism is very destructive on aging and relationships,  political life correlates with great intimacy and great relationships, great relationships with mothers while young is significant in the longterm for boys and that warm relationship with fathers while young is related with decreased anxiety while older. 

Niobe Way’s book; Deep Secrets, Niobe challenges the stereotype that boys are illiterate emotionally and that they do not desire friendships of intimate nature.  Niobe, through empirically grounded research, finds that boys share intimate stories about themselves with their boyfriends and claim that their lives would be bad without these friends. The book shows how these friendships wane as the boy age and become more distrustful and thus largely end up lonely. 

Through the research done by Julie A. Philips titled ‘A changing epidemiology of suicide? The influence of birth cohorts on suicide rates in the United States’, there is evidence that there has been an increase in suicide rates of baby boomers; those born between 1946 and 1964 in America since 1999.  The data collected reflect a change in the demographics of those dying through suicide. There is a greatly pronounced rate of male deaths through suicide as compared to females over a similar period of time. There is an indication of the rise of up to 17.4 percent in 100,000 of the population. 

I greatly agree with these observations. Males are raised in a manner that makes them believe that masculinity means not showing weakness or asking for help in whatever manner. This makes most males become lonely in search of independence. This is greatly detrimental to their health as it mostly leads to depression as most do not have a window to ventilate their problems. If not checked, it could turn fatal when some of these men caught up in loneliness find suicide as an option to liberate themselves. This calls for society to self-reflect and see a better way in which men can be raised. 

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