The men's perspective Single, male and over 50
Christy McNamara divides his time between New York and Clare
The 2011 census shows that 90 per cent of married men in their early 50s were reported to be in “good” or “very good” health, but among single men of a similar age the percentage was 10 points lower: 80 per cent. The difference in health between single and married women in the same age group was just six points. Single men tend to have poorer health than single women and married men.
Counsellor Mary Kenny says there are many reasons that men often don’t do as well by themselves. She recalls a recent case. “He was very unhappy. His marriage broke up and he was still living in the same house as he couldn’t afford to move out. He hadn’t washed in several days, was wearing an old jersey and had no clue about personal hygiene.
“He spent a lot of time giving out about his ex-wife, and you do find that men in their 50s can tend to go into victim mode.”
Kenny believes that as men get older they can focus on things such as their declining looks, a lack of excitement in their work, or declining fertility. This can lead to anxiety or depression.
“Sometimes, men of that age reflect on their life and if they feel they haven’t achieved what they set out to achieve, it can put a huge amount of pressure on them.”
Dr Chris Luke, emergency medical consultant in Mercy University Hospital and Cork University Hospital, says that in his experience men in particular do not cope well with singlehood. “We are seeing more men in recent years living on their own who turn down or off the heating. One of the main injuries we see is when someone falls and ends up spending the night on a cold floor. They are then brought into us suffering from hypothermia. Single men are much more vulnerable to accidental death, particularly if there isn’t another person in the house,” he says.
“Many of them will fall into bad habits around alcohol and neglect of their appearance,” he says.
Of course, it’s not hopeless, and many single men look after themselves perfectly well. Mary Kenny says she also encounters men “who, when they deal with some of the issues that have been troubling them, it is a new start in life”. But “if they don’t get help, they often end up in worse relationships than ones they may have left”.
‘The complexity is my lifestyle’ Photographer and musician Christy McNamara (54), spends his time between his home in Spancilhill, Co Clare and New York. He separated from his partner last year and has no children. “I have always had girlfriends and have been in long-term relationships,” he says. “I have never found it a problem being single. A lot of my family have children. It has never been an issue for me, as I would never have felt marginalised because I was a single man.”