A large social group, European travel and cosmopolitan exuberance made his decade in London one that Jason Kick-Dawson remembers with fondness.
But when he returned to Australia with his wife Amy to her hometown of Melbourne he realised that along the way he had lost something very dear to him: his mates.
Born in Mudgee, in New South Wales, and no longer in contact with his school friends, Kick-Dawson found himself at the age of 30 in a new city with no social life and feeling lonely.
Despite hopes he would meet other fathers when his two children went to school, the years between the ages of 30 and 36 were sometimes bleak.
Millions of Australian men lose friends and become increasingly lonely after they turn 30 and work, family and other commitments eat up their time, new research shows.
The study, the first of its kind in Australia, found one in four – or 1.1 million men – have few or no social connections, and loneliness and isolation is common in men between 30 and 65 years of age.
The peak time for neglecting friendships was between the ages of 35 and 54, and researchers found men often lacked the skills and drive to remedy this. Instead they bore the misery of their situation with “stoic, masculine pride”.
One in three men said they were not satisfied with the quality of their relationships, it found.
Half of men said they rarely talked about deeper personal issues with friends while almost a third said they wished they could open up more.
Changes in family circumstance, a lack of time, injury, illness, mental health, work and finances were all reasons men gave for becoming disatissfied with their social life.
Interestingly, men who were not close to their fathers growing up were more likely to feel isolated in later life.
Gregarious by nature, Jason Kick-Dawson persevered. He took up playing the bass guitar, then road cycling, to try and make new connections.
But it was not until he joined a triathlon club and met other men with young families that he enjoyed new friendships.
“I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn’t met them, to be honest,” he said.
“I had some dark days when I was a young man. I think it [not having friends] was causing a strain on my marriage because I needed friend time.”
The report found there were a number of ways men could prevent this slide into loneliness.
More emphasis should be placed on how social connection is a preventative measure against psychological distress, and initiatives like men’s sheds should be encouraged to broaden their base and sign up younger members.
Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett he was surprised by the findings but could understand how men cut themselves off from sporting and other activities as their family responsibilities increased.
“We should be getting the message out to men and their partners that as they go through these changes they shouldn’t lose contact with the things that give them the balance in their life,” he said.
This article first appeared on ‘The Age’ on 11 December 2014.