Monday, December 5, 2011

Lonely at the Top: Interview with Thomas Joiner, Ph.D.

[Episode 70] In today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is about loneliness. Since social workers don't talk much about loneliness (we'd rather talk about social isolation or social withdrawl), I spoke with Thomas Joiner, Ph.D., Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, and author of Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men's Success, published in 2011 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Dr. Joiner and I talk about biological and social factors that contribute to men's loneliness. We talk about the effects of loneliness on men's health and well-being, including the issue of suicide. We talk about how Dr. Joiner's research speaks to women and men who are not on the top, for example sexual and racial minorities. We talk about some of the solutions that Dr. Joiner proposes, including simply reaching out. We end our conversation on a personal note. I tell Dr. Joiner that my wife recently gave birth to twin boys. I ask him what I can do to prevent my sons from growing up and becoming lonely men. He was kind enough to give me some free advice.

Download MP3 [36:15]

Thomas Joiner, Ph.D.


THOMAS JOINER grew up in Georgia, went to college at Princeton, and received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is Distinguished Research Professor and The Bright-Burton Professor in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Joiner's work is on the psychology, neurobiology, and treatment of suicidal behavior and related conditions. Author of over 395 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Joiner was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Residency Fellowship. He was elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and received the Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Shakow Award for Early Career Achievement from the Division of Clinical Psychology of the American Psychological Association, the Shneidman Award for excellence in suicide research from the American Association of Suicidology, and the Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions from the American Psychological Association, as well as research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Department of Defense, and various foundations.

Dr. Joiner is on the Board of Advisors for the magazine Men's Health. He is editor of the American Psychological Association's Clinician's Research Digest, editor of the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior, and he has authored or edited fifteen books, including Why People Die By Suicide, published in 2005 by Harvard University Press, and Myths About Suicide, published in 2010, also with Harvard University Press. Largely in connection with Why People Die By Suicide, he has made numerous radio, print, and television appearances, including write-ups in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health, and The Times of London, a radio interview on the Leonard Lopate Show in New York, and two appearances on the Dr. Phil Show.

Dr. Joiner is clinically active - he is a licensed clinical psychologist in Florida. He is Director of FSU's University Psychology Clinic, and thus oversees the supervision by five psychologists of 20 clinical psychology graduate students treating approximately 80 patients per week. Dr. Joiner provides six- to twelve-hour workshops on suicidal behavior and mood disorders to nurses, social workers, psychologists and allied health professionals across the U.S. He runs a consulting practice specializing in suicidal behavior, including legal consultation on suits involving death by suicide.

According to a recent survey, Dr. Joiner was ranked as the world's second most productive academic clinical psychologist.

He lives in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife and two sons.


Jonathan Singer: Today's episode of the social work podcast is about loneliness. [Music: intro to "Piano Man"]. Social workers don't talk much about loneliness. We talk around loneliness. We talk about social isolation or social withdrawl. I don't remember staffing any cases with my supervisors and having them say, "Jonathan, it seems like you've missed a key factor in your client's current circumstances - loneliness." My hunch is that we don't talk much about loneliness because everyone experiences it. Something can't be pathological if it is a universal experience, right? If you don't think of loneliness as a universal experience, just turn on the radio, or whatever it is called these days. Pop musicians love to write songs about universal themes like love and loss, and loneliness.

Billy Joel, in his 1973 hit "Piano Man" expressed it most concisely when he wrote the line, "They're sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it's better than drinking alone." Sting, first of The Police and then of, well, just Sting, has made a career out of writing about loneliness. In his 1979 song, "Message in a Bottle," he used the metaphor of an island castaway who puts a message in a bottle and throws it into the sea, hoping someone will find it. Unlike the lonely bar room patrons in "Piano Man", the castaway in "Message in a Bottle" is surprised to find out he is not alone in being alone. [cue music: "Message in a Bottle"]. He wakes up one morning to find "A hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore."

Mariah Carey, in her 1993 song, "Anytime You Need a Friend," doesn't so much speak to loneliness as much she speaks to the lonely. She and a big old loving choir tell Billy Joel's barroom patrons and Sting's island castaways, "anytime you need a friend, I'll be here" [cue music].

So, other than reminding us of some great pop music, why am I talking about loneliness today? According to my guest, Thomas Joiner, the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, loneliness might be at the heart of one of the most perplexing contemporary public health paradoxes. That paradox is, despite the fact that men are by all indicators the most powerful and privileged in every country in the world, "for each of the 12 leading causes of death, mortality is higher for men than women" (Joiner, 2011, p. 7). If we look at just one of those causes of death, suicide, the disparity between men and women is astounding: Of the approximately 36,000 Americans who died by suicide in 2009, approximately 80% were men. Of those men, approximately 90% were white men. Why would white men, who are the most privileged of the privileged, be the most likely to kill themselves? Dr. Joiner's answer is simple:  Loneliness.

Now, the loneliness that Dr. Joiner writes isn't some sterile psychological construct. It is the same thing that you and I know as loneliness. It is the same loneliness that people have experienced forever and the same loneliness that Billy, Sting, and Mariah sing about. Dr. Joiner's thesis is that men have higher mortality rates because they are "the lonely sex." If I were to be reductionist and gendered it would make sense that "Piano Man" and "Message in the Bottle," songs written and performed by men, ostensibly about men, do a brilliant job of conveying loneliness. It also makes sense that the song that talks about how to be un-lonely, or connected, was written and performed by a woman.

But I'm not reductionist and gendered, so let's move on...

Dr. Joiner is the author of the book, Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men's Success published in 2011 by Palgrave Macmillan talks about why men are so lonely. In today's episode of the social work podcast, Dr. Joiner and I talk about biological and social factors that contribute to men's' loneliness. We talk about the effects of loneliness on men's health and wellbeing, including the issue of suicide. We talk about how Dr. Joiner's research speaks to women and men who are not on the top – for example sexual and racial minorities. We talk about some of the solutions that Dr. Joiner proposes – including the Mariah Carey solution - reaching out. We end our conversation on a personal note. I tell Dr. Joiner that my wife recently gave birth to twin boys. I ask him what I can do to prevent my sons from growing up and becoming lonely men. He was kind enough to give me some free advice.

Before we get to the interview, I just wanted to say that one of the ironies of being lonely in today's society is that there are a million technologies that facilitate being in touch with others. Even though Dr. Joiner is in Florida and I'm in Pennsylvania, we were able to have this conversation face-to-face using webcams and Skype – although there is only an audio recording of this conversation. If you're on Facebook, you can connect with thousands of other social workers on the Social Work Podcast Facebook page. If you have a Twitter account, you can get updates on my Twitter feed about upcoming episodes, and information and news stories that are relevant to social work practice and past episodes of the social work podcast. And of course, you can read a transcript of today's interview and get resource links on the Social Work Podcast webpage at So, without further ado, on to episode 70 of the Social Work Podcast: Lonely at the Top: An Interview with Thomas Joiner, Ph.D.


Jonathan Singer: Well, Thomas thanks so much for being here today and talking with us on The Social Work Podcast about your book Lonely at the Top. In your book you write, “Men are coddled and spoiled in many ways, but it is not all wine and roses. When it comes to death, illness, and injury, men take it on chin, and women are left, relatively speaking unscathed; less affected, that is, by illness injury, and early mortality” (p. 46). You attribute this difference mainly to loneliness. How do you define loneliness and Why is it "Lonely at the Top?"

Thomas Joiner: Well, loneliness - and there's a sense in which it needs no definition - you know, much like hunger or fear. Everyone intuitively gets it. But I do think it's helpful to be explicit and a power to do that with regard to the definition of loneliness, the way I would do it is to say it's immutuality. There's a lack of mutuality, a lack of the meeting of the minds that I think really does come naturally to most people men and women alike but when that’s disrupted, when there's a lack of that peopled mutual feeling, there's a really big host of untoward consequences to that state of mind.

Jonathan Singer: You know, another thing that you write is that “our biology is geared toward making socializing reinforcing” (p. 181). So if socializing, that social connection, right - the mutuality - is a basic biological truth or drive, then why would somebody who’s capable of socializing communicate to those around him “don’t connect with me?”

Thomas Joiner: Yeah. It's a great question because I do think it's true that as a species and not just we humans but we primates and, you know, other animals for that matter as well really are designed for social connection. It's just a deep deep need that we have and a compelling aspect of human nature. So, it's a good question about why would one group somehow have more problems with that than another. With regard to men and women, I think there are few possible answers and one has to do with biology. It's an amazing but true fact that male babies at age four months, five months or six months are already less interested in people than their female counterparts so there's a kind of biology there just in terms of what interest and girls get interested in faces and facial expressions and things of that sort more so than boys whereas boys get drawn to images or shapes and patterns and geometric patterns and things of that nature more so than the girls. So, there's a kind of starting out biology that tilts the trajectories for males toward an unpeopled domain more so than females and then throughout life that’s still going on but then some social factors and social processes kick in to further exacerbate that early trend.

Jonathan Singer: And so what would be some of those social processes that exacerbate something that sounds kind of almost innate from what you're describing?

Thomas Joiner: I think the seeds are very much innate but the processes that occurred later in life I think just encourage the flowering so to speak of these processes, you know, which is a little bit of an unfortunate way to put it because it's not a flowering it's really – it's a negative process. For instance, I think as you alluded to earlier, men are spoiled relatively speaking. They are relatively privileged and spoiled and so absorb an unfortunate lesson which is this is how it's always going to be. I don’t have to work hard to maintain or cultivate friendships, relationships, family life. It's just going to happen. Everyone else can take care of that. My attention has to be focused rather on the things like status and wealth and I think that’s the essential core problem is the focus on the things like wealth and status at the expense of cultivating and nurturing relationship.

The successful people can and do, do both of those things simultaneously and I think that’s a very legitimate recipe for life satisfaction. But if you sacrifice the one at the expense of the other, therein lies the path to distraction and I think there are biological and social processes which encourage that tendency a little bit more in men than in women. But I do want to point out that it can certainly apply to anyone. It can apply to women. It can apply men of different socioeconomic status. It can apply to anyone. But the argument is kind of probabilistic. It's more probable that this process will apply to men than it will to women on average, is one of the animating thesis of the book.

Jonathan Singer: And when you say that this process, you're talking about the process of sort of intentionally pruning, you know, these social connections like not keeping up with them or not making new ones because there's the idea well, they'll always be there. I don’t have to work at it. I have to worry about status and power and wealth. Did I understand that correctly?

Thomas Joiner: Well, partly but the intentional – that’s an interesting concept about how intentional this is. I guess I’m suggesting is that the, you know, the active intentionality that the average man pays to issues of status and wealth, if that same man paid the same kind of intentional active attention to relationships, on average outcomes will be a lot better. But what a lot of men tend to do is go into default mode, passive mode, pretty unintentional kind of mode when it comes to relationships and just sort of let that take care of itself assuming in a kind of, you know, spoiled attitude that it should just be taken care of without any effort or without any attention paid to it. Unfortunately, that’s often not what happens. Just like with anything a garden or, you know, a plant if you neglect it and just assume that all will be well, often it's not well. Things wither and then outcomes can be very bad and that’s what the book, the book Lonely at the Top is the name of the book that alluded to. That’s one of the essential arguments is that happens to everyone but it especially tends to happen to men.

Jonathan Singer: So, I think it's, you know, this idea that it happens to everyone is really interesting because, you know, as social workers, you know, and this is the Social Work Podcast and even though we have listeners from all disciplines, you know, primarily social workers. But one of the things that we really emphasize in our social work education is this idea of oppression and sort of these exo-level factors that influence things, social norms, cultural values - and patriarchy is one of those and - so we acknowledge (social workers acknowledge) that clearly, you know, men are not exclusively beneficiaries of a patriarchal system because clearly there are men who are not at the top, right. You can ask gay men in the military, right - especially until recently - or men of color say who find themselves passed over for hire or promotion because of overt or covert racism. And at the same time women are not exclusively at the bottom. So, how does some of the ideas that you’ve addressed in your book inform our understanding of men who are not at the top and women who are not at the bottom?

Thomas Joiner: The book was really designed originally and remains a book that was designed to answer all of those questions. It's true that the book is called Lonely at the Top. The original title and part of the title for the first overview chapter is called The Lonely Sex and I think in some ways that may capture the book even better than Lonely at the Top because as you rightly point out, yes, there are certainly issues of being very successful so much so that you alienate yourself and push others away. But loneliness certainly is not unique to that demographic, not by any stretch of the imagination. And a lot of the book is really concerned with people who because of these same processes end up far from successful, end up very alienated and very miserable through the exact same processes that are described in the book which also apply to people who happen to make it at the top and they also apply to really any population, women, all sorts of men, it doesn’t really matter.

But again the probabilistic issue is worth emphasizing because I think on average if you're told this happened to somebody this process of becoming spoiled, losing relationships and then in the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and beyond, health deteriorating, alienation being very high and very untoward outcomes occurring having to do with things like suicide. If you're told that that has happened and you guess that it's a man, you're going to be right more times than not though again it can certainly apply to other demographic groups.

Jonathan Singer: So, you just mentioned suicide and I think this is, this is probably one of the most compelling things that you write about in your book. Could you talk a little about that, about male suicide?

Thomas Joiner: Yeah. I think it's actually one of the most important facts that kind of starts the book out is to remark – is to reflect upon the fact that on the one hand there's no doubt about male privilege and males being spoiled. I think you can see that in virtually every walk of like and I think it's one reason that social work for instance rightly emphasizes those concerns about patriarchy. You can see it wherever you look. So, it's very puzzling that that same group who are privileged would have higher rates of anything negative. But they do across all sorts of health conditions and suicide may be the most staggering of all because it depends on the country a little bit but in the U.S. the rates, you know, given that someone has died by suicide, the likelihood that that individual is male is at least 80%, between 80 and 85%. That’s a staggeringly unbalanced gender ratio. It's paradoxical, in a sense it's paradoxical that a very privileged group would have a very disastrous outcome and yet that is what happens and that kind of paradox is one thing that the book sets out to explore and to at least to a degree resolve.

Jonathan Singer: So, you're saying that 80% of suicides are among men.

Thomas Joiner: Right.

Jonathan Singer: And here we are, we're talking about men as being the most powerful and privileged in general in our society and yet they are the ones who killed themselves. And I think most people if they think about it sort of offhand, we think "oh people would kill themselves because they lack power and privilege and economic resources and those are the things that would make their lives miserable and they wouldn’t want to, they wouldn’t want to live." And yet the people that have the most are the ones that are killing themselves the most often.

Thomas Joiner: Well, I think there's a definite truth to misery and to lack of resources being factors in suicidal behavior and in death by suicide. That definitely occurs. It occurs everyday. But that’s not as paradoxical as the fact that it also occurs that very privileged, high status wealthy individuals, there is much more likely to have also the disastrous consequences. And so there's got to be a factor at least by my reasoning, there's got to be a factor that explains why a privileged group would be over represented in a very underprivileged phenomenon like death by suicide. There's something that explains why those two things that don’t seem to go together actually do go together and my answer for that is loneliness. Loneliness can explain both phenomena. Loneliness definitely spurs suicidal behavior and if you take the attitude that wealth and status are more important than anything, you're willing to sacrifice everything for them including relationships, you'll end up lonely and then that’s where you see the kind of conjunction of these two forces and you see it in a lot of very negative health consequences. We've been talking about death by suicide rightly because it's a huge issue but there are other ones too, physical health, mental health and on and on and on.

Jonathan Singer: I find it amazing that it's possible that the thing we can point to that best explains this disparity is something as simple as loneliness. You know when you think about suicide and you think about risk factors and there are all these things, you know, they're like 800,000 million things that people are told to look out for but you're saying really let's talk about loneliness.

Thomas Joiner: I am saying that it's, I think it's at least very plausible and possible that this very complex scenario is after all attributable at least in part to pretty simple and parsimonious explanation having to do with loneliness. I do think that’s part of what I’m arguing in the book and as you hit on very precisely, I think the clinical implications of that are pretty interesting because it does reduce the vast number of things that a clinician has to keep track of in terms of suicide risk. It starts to focus at clinician’s attention on loneliness in particular. I don’t think it all boils down to loneliness in terms of suicide risk but I do think it's a very promising kind of avenue for future research is to say – and you can document well over 200 suicide risk factors. I think it's a very promising avenue to say of those 200 which are – it's just not manageable to keep track of that as a clinician, can we boil them down to a handful that are manageable and they're valid and I think loneliness would definitely be in that handful of factors.

Jonathan Singer: I think that’s absolutely amazing. Are you saying that loneliness is a consequence of being at the top?

Thomas Joiner: Yeah. I mean, I think it is a consequence. It's a consequence of the core attitude of many men, again, not all and certainly this applies to women as well, that core attitude of it's okay to sacrifice relationships in order to gain wealth and status. I just think that attitude is one that our culture promotes a little bit and that is very alluring in some ways because wealth and status are alluring and indeed I think people should strive for them. I just don’t think people should do so at the extreme sacrifice and expense of losing touch with their friends and their families. So, that’s the essential process and an outcome is feeling alienated and lonely and then in turn an outcome of that are all these direct consequences and we talked about suicide but there are others too in the mental health and physical health domain.

Jonathan Singer: In your book you write that “a fatal flaw of past work on men’s problems is that solutions are posed that could work, in principle, for the average person, but do not work, in practice, for actual men… My goal in this book is to deliver on the promise to show the way out of this lonely morass via solutions men will find credible and viable” (p. 44). I’m wondering, you know, what's being done or what should be done at various levels to address the issue?

Thomas Joiner: A big part of the issue is that people that are attracted to our professions tend to be extremely psychologically-minded. They're comfortable with psychological complexity. They're comfortable with their emotions, that kind of thing. I think that’s a very very important strength for mental health professionals but I don’t think it characterizes the average man who live, you know, on farms in the Midwest or who work in industries all throughout our country because I think that’s been an essential problem is for professionals like us to imagine that what would work for us would work for everybody and I question that. And so that leads to the question of well, what might work for everybody and I think that some parameters are just quite clear. One they have to be very very simple, else the prospect for dissemination wide use is very diminished.

And they have to be things that feel right, that feel credible to average people and so those two parameters have guided me towards things like a focus on sleeping better. That sounds like you would have very little to do with loneliness but in fact there is compelling research showing that if you sleep better, you're a lot less lonely. If you're less lonely, you sleep better. It has this kind of positive upward spiraling effect and the contrary thing can happen too. A downward spiral of being lonely can't sleep, getting even more lonely. It's a very simple behavioral targets and approaches to improving sleep commonly known in our fields as things as sleep hygiene of very simple tips but that actually work. Those are the things that I’m attracted to here because, you know, a typical man may not talk to his physician or his or a mental health professional, maybe reluctant to talk about things like loneliness or depression or feeling suicidal but they'll talk about sleep and so that there's that, there's that other issue of drawing people in to talk about something that will affect their mental health but they're comfortable of talking about. So, that’s one set of things or things like that.

Another set has more to do specifically with loneliness and it has to do with these very simple kinds of tips and strategies and habits that just make people more socially connected. You know for instance, I’m influenced by the literature on gratitude and some of that literature has things people – has people do simple things like you simply call in to a research line every week and the task is simply to tell the person who answers the line. It’ll be a stranger. It's just one of the research staff and your task is simply to spend a couple minutes, maybe five minutes max listing off things that happened in the last week for which you are grateful. That’s all the intervention is and there's some sort of comparison group and the people who make those gratitude calls as brief as they are to a stranger just once a week have noticeably better physical health and mental health, things like lower blood pressure, things like, you know, lower anger scores rather.

So these things are doable. They're viable. They're credible to the usual individual in the street so to speak and so those are the kinds of things that I really emphasize in the book as ways forward on not just, not really just on the topic of loneliness but really more even on broader topic of just well-being and mental health and physical health generally.

Jonathan Singer: So, it sounds like there's some basic, you know, biological things you can do. You can sleep better. Probably there's something around eating or that sort of stuff but then there's the social aspect and what you're talking about calling into a research line is really reaching out to somebody. It doesn’t even have to be, you know, a best friend. It would just be somebody in saying, you know, these are the things I’m grateful for.

Thomas Joiner: Yes. And it can even effect things like, you know, like people’s blood work and their blood pressure and that’s, you know, that’s impressive to me that not only are we getting effects through those studies on things like, you know, feeling a little bit better emotionally, feeling a little less depressed which is extremely important but it's not only that, it's caring further than that to the body where people are, you know, their blood work looks better. Their blood pressure gets better. That’s really impressive and it isn't, it is worth emphasizing that that how little it takes to get those gangs calling once a week somebody that you don’t even really know might be enough to do it. If that’s true then reaching out to people who you do know, your friends, your family and doing it more, you know, frequently than just once a week stands to reason that that might give you even more benefit and it's not that hard to do.

That’s kind of a mantra of the book as well as any intervention that will encourage individuals to show up, reach out and join in are going to help them in this domain of loneliness and in terms of just well being and health generally. And there are a lot of therapies as you pointed out over the decades that have contained these kinds of things but they’ve also gotten very very very complex in addition to all that and that’s another kind of gist of lonely at the top is to say let's take out the active ingredients especially ones that are very simple and very doable, very teachable. Let's concentrate on those because if we get more complex than that, we might not be able to disseminate this to all the people who really need it.

Jonathan Singer: I think it's fascinating thinking about implications for senior community centers or nursing homes or assisted living instead of elaborate, you know, interventions just saying, you know, to some of the older men maybe. Hey, you know, it's okay to make a call once a day even if it's for a couple of minutes and just check in with somebody or leave a message maybe. That that could possibly have life altering affects.

Thomas Joiner: I agree. It's fascinating and very likely true that something as simple as a daily call for a couple of minutes will make a very big difference and there's a kind of classic study in that same kind of setting where the only manipulation was the resident of the home was told that he or she has to take care of a house plant and then the other half of the group were told the plant is there but don’t worry we'll take care of it. And believe or not, those two groups differed in survival rates over the following interval with the people who are actively reaching out and having to tend to the plant care for it had better survival rates than those who also had a plant but just weren’t caring for it, the staff were. Now, if something like that can make difference then reaching out, you know, beyond plants to people, to loved ones, to friends and family or to pets for that matter, you know, all of that I think has really interesting potentially life saving implications.

Jonathan Singer: That’s amazing. You know, I just have two more questions here and I appreciate you taking the time to talk about this topic that, you know, as we're talking I realized is just not something I've thought much about, you know, because it's easy to think about men have it all. But, of course, you know, having it all doesn’t necessarily mean that they're better off.

Thomas Joiner: Right. And that’s one another, you know, goal of the book is I do think it's only natural that a lot of this has flown under the radar for a long time because, you know, stereotypical masculinity doesn’t really go along with caring about loneliness or any of that kind of stuff. So, it makes sense to me that it would fly under the radar but I do think bringing in, you know, to the surface and examining it shows that, you know, not only is this relevant but it's potentially life, literally life saving. You know, again, not certainly to include men but for everybody. We're just gregarious creatures and we need one another. Any process that disrupts that is going to be very potentially great.

Jonathan Singer: So, I have a question: My wife just gave birth to twin boys not too long ago. I hear you talking about, you know, getting sleep or taking care of a house plant or calling a research line, these are all things that men can do… WHEN THEY ARE MEN. Now, is there anything I can do for my boys?

Thomas Joiner: Yeah. I've had parents, you know, the book came out just a couple of weeks ago and I've had parents spontaneously email me and this was not my main intention in writing the book but it's happened nevertheless and the gist of the email is along those very lines. I've got sons, what can I do now to make sure this doesn’t happen to my sons and again I’m attracted to very concrete simple things and so in that same fashion or same direction, I would say that just modeling for children that, you know, relationships are essential. They're as essential as money, probably more so. They're as essential as status and like money and status, they don’t come for free. You have to work for them and they're worth working for. I just think that parents can model that in their own lives with their own friends and family and then certainly, you know, between parents and children. I think that could go a long way to easing these trajectories onto a more manageable path.

Jonathan Singer: So, maybe one of the things that I can do is I can model for my kids that I’m giving my friends a call, you know, but that I’m actually having meaningful connection with other men and women.

Thomas Joiner: Absolutely. I think it's essential to model that. I mean, it's essential to the individual for help as a main argument of the book but it has this very positive secondary effect of modeling to everyone around you including children. This is so vital and so essential that I’m going to prioritize it. It's not necessarily going to be the main priority of my entire life: you are, my kids are, you know, my sons are also supporting that family. It's very important that I’m not suggesting neglecting any of that. I’m simply suggesting elevating relationship cultivation to that same level because it deserves to be there.

Jonathan Singer: Thomas, I want to thank you so much for being here on the Social Work Podcast and talking about your new book, as you said just came out a couple of weeks ago, Lonely at the Top.

Thomas Joiner: Well, I’m very grateful to you Jonathan. This is a terrific thing that you're doing and I’m happy to be a small part of it.


Resources and References

Joiner, T. E. (2011). Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men's Success. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 

APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:

Singer, J. B. (Host). (2011, December 5). Lonely at the top: Interview with Thomas Joiner, Ph.D. [Episode 70]. Social Work Podcast. Podcast retrieved Month Day, Year, from

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