We need to have a talk about an issue plaguing America - loneliness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. The problem can have severe impacts on a person’s life. Research shows that loneliness is associated with depression, anxiety, suicide, heart disease, and dementia.1 I know what you are probably thinking - loneliness must be due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, loneliness was increasing before the Pandemic.
For decades, there has been a friendship recession in the United States.2 A friendship recession is an increase in the amount of alone time, a decrease in the number of friends a person has, and the time devoted to friendship. The Survey Center on American Life conducted a study in 2021 looking at the friendship recession. “The survey found that since 1990, the number of men with at least six close friends decreased from 55% to 27%. Similarly, for men who identified as having zero close friends, the numbers jumped from 3% to 15%.” 3
Men aren’t the only population affected by the friendship recession, but the impact on men has been greater. It can be difficult for men to establish and maintain friendships. Overall, men are less trusting of others, they lack time and fear rejection.4 This leads to men having smaller social circles, and it appears that there is a connection between the size of a person’s social circle and levels of loneliness.5 However, men don’t have to be destined for loneliness.
In my humble opinion, Freemasons have a cure for the friendship recession. When a man becomes a Freemason, a door is unlocked to an enormous social circle. Participating in activities like meetings, degrees, and rehearsals goes a long way toward establishing quality friendships. Traveling to other Lodges and Jurisdictions can also help to expand a man’s list of friends. Unlike superficial connections on social media, the bonds forged in Freemasonry are strong. Masons regularly encourage their Brothers to improve and rise to new challenges. Masons are there for each other when a helping hand is needed.
Our Brotherhood can fill a void that many men feel in their hearts. That is worth celebrating and communicating to the world. That should be one of our primary messages when we communicate with prospective members.
1. “Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 Apr. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html.
2. Witt-Swanson, Lindsey, et al. “American Men Suffer a Friendship Recession.” The Survey Center on American Life, 7 Apr. 2022, https://www.americansurveycenter.org/commentary/american-men-suffer-a-friendship-recession/.
3. Kaplan, Jessica. “What Is a Friendship Recession and Why Are We Currently in One?” Reader's Digest, Reader's Digest, 5 Jan. 2023, https://www.rd.com/article/friendship-recession/.
4. “The Devastating Toll of Men's Loneliness.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fear-intimacy/202111/the-devastating-toll-mens-loneliness.
5. Cox, Daniel A., et al. “Men's Social Circles Are Shrinking.” The Survey Center on American Life, 7 Apr. 2022, https://www.americansurveycenter.org/why-mens-social-circles-are-shrinking/.
Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.