Towards an understanding of loneliness among Australian men: Gender cultures, embodied expression and the social bases of belonging
Recent quantitative investigations consistently single out considerable gender variations in the experience of loneliness in Australia, and in particular how men are especially prone to protracted and serious episodes of loneliness. In 2017 the Director of Lifeline implicated loneliness as a significant factor in suicide among Australian men - currently three times the rate of suicide among women. Compared to women men also struggle to talk about loneliness or seek help from a range of informal and professional sources. We know very little about men's experience of loneliness or why they are so susceptible to it currently and research is urgently needed in order to design specific interventions for them. To date, psychology has dominated the theoretical research on loneliness but in this article we argue that sociology has a key role to play in broadening out the theoretical terrain of this understanding so as to create culturally informed interventions. Most researchers agree that loneliness occurs when belongingess needs remain unmet, yet it is also acknowledged that such needs are culturally specific and changing. We need to understand how loneliness and gender cultures configure for men; how they are located in different ethnic, class and age cohort cultures as well as the changing social/economic/spatial/public/institutional bases for belonging across Australia. Theoretical enquiry must encompass the broader social structural narratives (Bauman, Giddens and Sennett) and link these to the changing nature of belonging in everyday life - across the public sphere, the domestic sphere, work, in kinship systems, housing and settlement patterns, associational life, in embodied relationships and online.