Friendless men and the lone cowboy syndrome

Man on bike
A man rides down a Manhattan street on a bicycle on September 15, 2011 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

We know friendships are important, so why do we place less value on male friendships? For American men, growing up often means embracing adulthood alone and leaving behind the deep friendships of childhood - but that autonomy comes at a cost.

Researchers now know that friendships not only make us feel good, but also help us live longer and healthier lives.

"When you have a friend you're much more immune to colds and common illnesses," said Niobe Way, professor of applied psychology at New York University. "We're so deeply in need of relationships, we thrive in these relationships and when we don't have them we get sick -- psychologically and physically -- and the data shows that."

Way will join The Daily Circuit Thursday to discuss male friendships. She said globalization has dramatically changed how men interact in other countries.

"In China years ago when I lived there, you'd see men holding hands," Way said. "Now that American culture has entered into the conversation in China, boys don't want to look gay, they don't want to sound gay or talk about their desire for friendship. That's part of what it means to be American: the lone cowboy syndrome."

Geoffrey Greif, professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of "Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships," will also join the discussion.

"When we talked to men about issues with friendship and masculinity, a quarter or third of the men we talked to talked about the fear of appearing gay if they reached out to other guys for friendship," he said.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.