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Is Australian mateship in crisis?

Men with good mates live longer lives, yet Australian men are nearly twice as likely as women to say that they don’t have family or friends to confide in.

With as many as 1 in 4 men saying they don’t have any close friends, could this “mateship crisis” be one of the major drivers of poor health in men?

The impact that lack of social connection is having on men’s health will be the subject of an online discussion as part of Men’s Health Connected 2023, a series of online events run by the Australian Men’s Health Forum. You can register to attend this free event here:

Tackling Australia’s Mateship Crisis (Tuesday 18 April)

Why is mateship good for men’s health?

Research has found that a lack of social connection can be as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It can increase men’s risk of heart disease, the biggest killer of men, by 30%. It also increases the risk of suicide with men who lack close friends having twice the risk of suicidal thoughts.

More broadly, a wealth of international research has found that while social connection increases our chances of living longer, a lack of social connections (being lonely, socially isolated or living alone), significantly increases our risk of dying prematurely.

Are male friendships really in crisis?

The “mateship crisis” isn’t unique to Australian men; it’s a phenomenon that’s noted in other countries.

In the USA, Daniel Cox at the Survey Center on American Life, identified a male “friendship recession” when research found the percentage of men with at least six close friends fell by half from 55% in 1990 to 27% in 2021. In the same period, the proportion of men without any close friends jumped from 3 percent to 15 percent, a fivefold increase.

In Australia, research on social connection and men’s health has found that:

  • 1 in 25 (4%) have no close friends or relatives
  • 1 in 10 men over 45 live alone
  • 1 in 4 (22.9%) have no-one to share their private worries and fears with
  • 1 in 4 (25%) have no-one outside of immediate family they can rely on
  • 1 in 4 (25.3%) report poor social networks
  • 1 in 3 (36%) experience periods of loneliness
  • 3 in 5 (61%) have lost contact with more mates than they would like

How do we help men make friends?

The question of how we tackle this “mateship crisis” is the subject of a discussion being led by Glen Poole, CEO of the Australian Men’s Health Forum as part of Men’s Health Connected.

The online presentation – Tackling Australia’s Mateship Crisis – will map out the evidence that lack of social connection is a significant health risk for Australian men, before highlighting some of the ways that men’s groups across the country are already taking action to tackle this problem. Finally, Poole will lead a discussion on the actions that Government can take to improve men’s health by tackling the “mateship crisis” head on.

Register to take part in the Tackling Australia’s Mateship Crisis discussion at the Men’s Health Connected website.



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22 April 2024

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