Stories of Men

The Loneliness epidemic: do we need more friends?

The Loneliness epidemic: do we need more friends?

Have you noticed that the world has become a lonelier place? I see it all the time and I can’t now unsee it. Not just in others but in myself too.

We’re now more likely to work from home over Zoom, exercise at home using a YouTube fitness class, and socialise from home with a Whatsapp video call. Is this a worthy substitute for a face to face connection?

Some of us may even go a whole day or multiple days without physically interacting with another person! No hi, no hug, no handshake. Nada.

But being alone in this way can’t be good for you. I think about my grandad, an ex-coal miner, who spent 37 years doing back-breaking work. 

When he retired, he spent most of his time on his own as my nan passed away 25 years before he did.

We’d go round and see him for an hour or so a few times a week and he’d come round to our house too. He was old school. He was incredibly proud and he ‘wouldn’t want to put us out and be a burden’. The problem was that he would be by himself for days and days. Because he was disabled, it was hard for him to get around, so he spent most of his time stuck indoors watching films. He got out every so often as he had a mobility scooter, thankfully.

When we tried to visit him more often, he’d usually try and stop us. “I’m fine.” He’d say. “Leave me be”. But we knew he was lonely, how could he not be? 

He died in 2011, and I often find myself wondering how much longer he would’ve lived for if he hadn’t been so isolated.

In the past, it was less common for older people to be on their own. There was more of a sense of community. We all know this, right.

We also had charities and organisations which tried to deal with the loneliness older people experience. But organisations such as Manchester Cares and North London Cares for example have now closed down and so the problem continues to grow.

Of course it’s not just older people who are experiencing loneliness. Many people of all ages now find themselves spending more and more time on their own. 

However, as Mathew Lieberman writes in the book “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired for Connection”, we feel a need to connect with others. It’s the most natural feeling in the world to want to be seen and heard.

We also crave physical touch. This is why connecting with people on Skype or WhatsApp can never replace actual physical connection. Yes, you can see them, in two-dimensions at least, and, yes, you can hear them too. But you’re missing out on all of the other senses.

Studies have shown that regular physical touch improves our immune systems and reduces diseases associated with heart rate and blood pressure. So being alone for extended periods of time is literally bad for our health.

There are other issues associated with loneliness too. To attempt to mask the negative feelings loneliness causes, we’re more likely to drink to excess, to eat to excess or to gamble to excess. It’s a distraction from having to face up to what’s missing in our lives; namely, each other.

We’re also more likely to use our phones to excess. For more on the negative impact of using distractions to get through life, give this article a read.

One way that people are trying to combat loneliness is by using dating apps and friend apps. Both of which can be helpful.

My sister, for example, has found friends using Bumble. Have any of you used this app before? Yeah, it’s that app where women have to make the first move. I’m sure it’s probably a good one for guys who struggle to break the ice! Apps have never been my thing, personally but I see their benefits in healthy quantities.

Although many of us men might be happy to use an app to find a date, some of you might be thinking that finding a friend online would be too cringey, almost like admitting that we can’t find mates out in the real world.

But the truth is that many men do struggle to make friends. According to some studies, around 15% of men now have no close friendships at all, which is five times the percentage reported 35 years ago. 5 times!

I have a mate whose dad is in this situation. He’s 60 years old and has no-one he feels he could call on if in need. 

Then there are those of us who think we have friends when, in reality, we are surrounded by acquaintances. I’m sure many of us have those friends who we only get together with when we’re watching the football or getting a few beers in at the pub. But how deep do those friendships really go?

This makes me think of Noel Gallagher, who said in an interview once that when he decided to stop the excessive boozing and drug-taking that he did at the start of his music career, he realised that he didn’t actually like any of the people around him. He decided to stop talking to these people and took the time to go out and meet people who he could get along with and actually liked while sober.

Anecdotes like this remind me of the Richard Ashcroft album “Alone with Everybody.” You can have people around you but you’ll still feel lonely if they’re not people who you can meaningfully communicate with.

Listen to this story, where Luke talks about being surrounded by friends but feeling that there was no-one he could talk to during his most desperate moment.

I asked one of my mates years ago why he only seemed to get together with his other mates over the weekend. “Why couldn’t you meet up during a weeknight?” I asked him. “Oh no,” he said, “I couldn’t do that, I can’t be meeting up with them on a school night.” How real is a friendship if you can only see them at set times during the week? That doesn’t feel like a meaningful friendship to me. Why did it have to involve drink? Can we not go for a walk and chat? Watch the Champions league games on a Tuesday evening? I never understood it. Being a northerner, I found it more prevalent living there but I don’t see the same issues in London, in a big city.

Something I was watching recently that really opened my eyes was the Netflix documentary “Blue Zones”. Have you seen it? If not, it looks at common patterns for communities around the world where large sections of the population live up to 100 years old. It studied people from Sardinia to Okinawa and one of the things that all of the places had in common is that they all had a strong sense of community.

So that’s what I think we should be trying to rebuild in our own lives: a sense of community. This is very different to the online friends many of us have got used to having. Just because you have hundreds of friends on Facebook, doesn’t mean that you have anyone to call on when you need them most.

I think it’s better to go deeper, rather than wider when it comes to friendship. I think it’s better to focus on those few people who you can really mean something to, and who really mean something to you. 4 genuine friends makes up for 400 Facebook friends or Instagram followers any day of the week, in my view.

When it comes to genuine friendship, listen to this episode and ask yourself how many friends you have in your life who would be willing to do what Mark did for his brother?

But what do you think? Do you think that you have enough friends in your life? Or perhaps you think you have too many? And how deep do your current friendships go?



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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.