A group of about 20 men — all fathers in their 30s and 40s — gathered at a home in Oakland, California, a month ago to talk fatherhood. Alarmingly, when asked how many of them had “real friends” — confidantes with whom they could talk honestly and vulnerably about life on a regular basis, through good times and bad — only two raised their hands.
It might be tempting to interpret this sense of isolation as a crisis of masculinity in the U.S. But the available research suggests that loneliness is a problem that supersedes gender. In a revealing sociological study, a large percentage of Americans report having shrinking networks and fewer relationships. The average American has only one close confidante, the same study showed. And the leading reason people seek out counseling is loneliness. Robert Putnam’s popular book Bowling Alone brought this epidemic into greater awareness for the general public.
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