This week’s NPR hidden brain show gave us a very insightful look at the misguided notions of masculinity in the United States. And we explore new research that studies the consequences - stressed-out romantic relationships, physical health problems and a growing epidemic of loneliness.
The show start by focusing on a Harvard study found that people who had warmer, closer connections lived longer, developed the diseases of middle age, those chronic diseases, less soon and had better health longer on average than people who didn't have warm, close relationships. The study also found that bad relationships can magnify physical pain, and that close relationships buffer us from the physical problems we face as we age. The researchers found that the happiest people in retirement are those who actively work to replace colleagues with friends.
Then the show talked about spending time building and nurturing your friendships might be just as important to your health as eating right and exercising.
After exploring the causes, the show let us wonder how much better life could be if we could just admit these things to someone we care about, not just to a voicemail inbox, if we could be OK with being vulnerable, with being dependent on someone who's not a spouse, if we didn't look suspiciously at older men who are friendly or shame boys who talk about their love for their friends, if we expected friendships to endure, even as our lives change, so they don't have to fade to silence.