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The health benefits of male friendships (aka bromances)

Dr Tim Sharp

Building male friendships is well worth the effort

A man holds his hand to his mouth as he chats to another while out for lunch
A man holds his hand to his mouth as he chats to another while out for lunch

Whether it’s Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, Hamish and Andy or Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, the ‘bromance’ is everywhere – two buddies seemingly joined at the hip, who spend tonnes of time goofing around together.

But in real life, such relationships go way beyond teasing and horseplay. We all need someone to confide in when times are tough, and a problem shared with a wise mate really can mean a problem halved.

But, many men don’t have those crucial friendship bonds. A Relationships Australia survey found that more men than women had no close friends outside their long-term relationship.

So why is that?

One reason is that talking about feelings has historically been seen as a “female thing”, says Dr Tim Sharp, a positive psychologist known as Dr Happy.

“It’s good for men to have male friendships because it will improve their lives in almost every area,” he says. “Friendships help us feel connected and add to our sense of belonging, which counteracts feelings of loneliness and isolation which are, quite literally, killers.”

Two young man laugh as they sit on a bench in a backyard

The benefits of a bromance

Making the effort to build friendships is well worth it. Here are five ways a bromance can make life that much better.

1. It’s a stress buster

Having the companionship of a best bud lowers stress levels. According to research, being around a best friend during stressful times decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Although the study was in children, it shows how friends are good for our mental wellbeing.

2. You can be yourself

Men are allowed to be more vulnerable and open up about their mental health these days, says Tim. “Thankfully, what it means to be a man has changed considerably and almost entirely for the better,” he says. “Men are allowed to be different things and broader definitions of masculinity lead to better mental health. We should try to spend more time with people who uplift us, help us feel good and have our best interests at heart.”

3. You’ll get fitter

If your fitness regimen involves exercising alone, it’s often hard to find the motivation to prise yourself away from a streaming binge. But if you want to get fitter, you may be better off with company. A study of more than a million runners revealed that men jog much further (and more often) if they’re with someone else. So buddy up!

It’s good for men to have male friendships because it will improve their lives in almost every area

4. You’ll have someone to understand you (other than your partner)

If they have male friends, many men feel emotionally closer to them than to their girlfriends or wives, a group of UK academics discovered. They noted that a bromance offered “elevated emotional stability, enhanced emotional disclosure, social fulfilment and better conflict resolution, compared to the emotional lives participants shared with girlfriends.”

5. It’ll boost your brain power

As you age, having a strong social circle is more important than ever, as seniors who have close friends are far less likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Chicago-based scientists found that cognitive decline can be slowed by nearly half if an elderly man makes an effort to see his friends regularly.

How to build deeper male friendships

If you’re considering widening your social circle, Tim believes you should “Just do it! Make time and work at it the way you’d work at other aspects of health and wellbeing and life.

“And remember, you don’t need hundreds of friends; just one or two good ones can make a massive difference. Treasure those few, make them a priority and make time for them regularly.”

Something else men rarely talk about? Their health. To help you better identify what’s ‘normal’ and what’s not, check out our article, Men: 5 things about your body that are completely normal.

Dr Tim Sharp aka Dr Happy smiling at the camera while wearing a navy suit and glasses

Dr Tim Sharp

Dr Tim Sharp is Australia’s very own ‘Dr Happy’ who is at the forefront of the positive psychology movement with three degrees in psychology (including a PhD.). Dr Happy is a passionate professional with a wealth of experience both in the field and the media, and is the founder and CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) of The Happiness Institute, Australia’s first and best known organisation devoted to enhancing happiness. Tim really loves coffee; maybe a little too much...