Masculine Norms and Men's Health

Masculine Norms and Men's Health

Gender has been recognised as the strongest predictor of health behaviours, with men engaging in more risky behaviour and fewer health promoting behaviours than women. Men appear to compare unfavourably with women on such health practices as; spending less regular time with their GP, having poorer diets and sleeping habits, exercising less, having higher rates of obesity, higher levels of substance abuse, risky sexual practices, and increased levels of violence and aggression. Men also appear to take greater risk behind the wheel of a motor vehicle then do women; either through unsafe driving (speeding, driving under the influence) or through daredevil acts. The life expectancy of men is generally below women by 5.2 years, due to poor health practices.

There are a number of concepts which affect health related behaviour:

  1. The endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology, a belief about how men should or should not think, feel and behave;
  2. Conformity to masculine norms, a man’s self-assessment of the degree to which he personally conforms to traditional norms of masculinity;
  3. Masculine gender role stress,
  4. Gender role conflict, the stress a man experiences while conforming to the traditional norms of masculinity.

Gender role conflict is associated with risky health behaviours such as substance abuse. And masculine gender role stress is associated with behaviours linked to cardiac disease risk. It is also linked to conforming to masculine norms for both straight and same sex attracted men. Men who avail themselves of regular health care may do so to continue to perform in a masculine role, either as a worker in risky professions, or as sexual agent. One particular masculine norm of restricting the ‘expressions of emotions’ has been associated with health risk behaviour, while men who adhere to the traditional masculine norm of self-reliance are more likely to delay visiting their GP for blood pressure screening.

Christopher Swane - Counselling And Psychotherapy For Men - Wellington New Zealand