Men Who Conform to Masculinity Stereotypes Are More Likely to Have Mental Illness, Study Suggests

Out of 11 masculine norms, 'power over women' and 'playboy behavior' were particularly telling.

From mansplaining to mom shaming to victim blaming, sexism against women has been repulsively abundant this year. (And the election didn't help much, did it?) Ask pretty much any woman and she'll likely tell you about the annoying, hurtful, and downright unacceptable sexist attitudes and behaviors she's personally experienced. That part is all too familiar — but what about the men behind those attitudes and behaviors? What's their deal?

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According to a November 2016 review of studies by the American Psychological Association, men who conform strongly to traditional masculine norms (especially those related to sexism) are not only more likely to have psychological problems than those who don't, but they're also less likely to seek out help in treating those mental health problems.

To conduct the review, researchers analyzed data from 78 studies on men's gender norms and mental health, which together totaled nearly 20,000 male participants. In their research, the study authors focused specifically on 11 variables that they deemed define masculine norms:

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  1. Desire to win
  2. Need for emotional control
  3. Risk-taking
  4. Violence
  5. Dominance
  6. Sexual promiscuity (aka being what the authors call a "playboy")
  7. Self-reliance
  8. Primacy of work (read: how much significance a man places on his job)
  9. Power over women
  10. Disdain for homosexuality
  11. Pursuit of status

Ultimately, the researchers found that conforming to these stereotypical ideas of masculinity, as a whole, was linked to a variety of mental health problems, including everything from anxiety and depression to substance abuse and body image issues. But there were three "manly" variables that had particularly strong connections to mental health problems: self-reliance, power over women, and "playboy" behavior. Sound a little like the building blocks of sexism to anyone else?

There are some limitations to this review of studies (most of the participants analyzed were white, and the researchers didn't didn't take into account other factors — such as race and socioeconomic status — that might affect how much a man feels the need to fulfill his gender's norms), but it builds on earlier research that examined the complicated connection between our society's expectations for men and their mental health and helps pave the way for future research, too.

[h/t Huffington Post]

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