Nav: Home

Sexism may be harmful to men's mental health

November 21, 2016

WASHINGTON - Men who see themselves as playboys or as having power over women are more likely to have psychological problems than men who conform less to traditionally masculine norms, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"In general, individuals who conformed strongly to masculine norms tended to have poorer mental health and less favorable attitudes toward seeking psychological help, although the results differed depending on specific types of masculine norms," said lead author Y. Joel Wong, PhD, of Indiana University Bloomington. The study was published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

Wong and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 78 research samples involving 19,453 participants that focused on the relationship between mental health and conformity to 11 norms generally considered by experts to reflect society's expectations of traditional masculinity:
  • desire to win
  • need for emotional control
  • risk-taking
  • violence
  • dominance
  • playboy (sexual promiscuity)
  • self-reliance
  • primacy of work (importance placed on one's job)
  • power over women
  • disdain for homosexuality
  • pursuit of status

Specifically, they focused on three broad types of mental health outcomes: negative mental health (e.g., depression), positive mental health (e.g., life satisfaction), and psychological help seeking (e.g., seeking counseling services).

While most of the U.S.-based studies focused on predominantly white males, some focused predominantly on African-Americans and some on Asian-Americans.

While overall, conforming to masculine norms was associated with negative mental health outcomes in subjects, the researchers found the association to be most consistent for these three norms - self-reliance, pursuit of playboy behavior, and power over women.

"The masculine norms of playboy and power over women are the norms most closely associated with sexist attitudes," said Wong. "The robust association between conformity to these two norms and negative mental health-related outcomes underscores the idea that sexism is not merely a social injustice, but may also have a detrimental effect on the mental health of those who embrace such attitudes."

Even more concerning, said Wong, was that men who strongly conformed to masculine norms were not only more likely to have poor mental health but also also less likely to seek mental health treatment.

There was one dimension for which the researchers were unable to find any significant effects.

"Primacy of work was not significantly associated with any of the mental health-related outcomes," said Wong. "Perhaps this is a reflection of the complexity of work and its implications for well-being. An excessive focus on work can be harmful to one's health and interpersonal relationships, but work is also a source of meaning for many individuals."

Also, conformity to the masculine norm of risk-taking was significantly associated with both negative and positive mental health outcomes, suggesting that risk-taking can have both positive and negative psychological consequences, said Wong.
-end-
Article: "Meta-Analyses of the Relationship Between Conformity to Masculine Norms and Mental Health-Related Outcomes," by Y. Joel Wong, PhD, Shu-Yi Wang, MS, and S. Keino Miller, MA, Indiana University Bloomington, and Moon-Ho Ringo Ho, PhD, Nanyang Technological University. Journal of Counseling Psychology, published online Nov. 21, 2016.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at

http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/cou-cou0000176.pdf.

Contact: Joel Wong can be contacted by email at joelwong@indiana.edu or by phone at (812) 856-8293.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 117,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

http://www.apa.orgIf you do not want to receive APA news releases, please let us know at public.affairs@apa.org or 202-336-5700.

American Psychological Association

Related Mental Health Articles:

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.
Heat takes its toll on mental health
Hot days increase the probability that an average adult in the US will report bad mental health, according to a study published March 25, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Mengyao Li of the University of Georgia, and colleagues.
Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.
The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Skills training opens 'DOORS' to digital mental health for patients with serious mental illness
Digital technologies, especially smartphone apps, have great promise for increasing access to care for patients with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia.
The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.
The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: Mental health problems persist in adolescents five years after bariatric surgery despite substantial weight loss
Five years after weight-loss surgery, despite small improvements in self-esteem and moderate improvements in binge eating, adolescents did not see improvements in their overall mental health, compared to peers who received conventional obesity treatment, according to a study in Sweden with 161 participants aged 13-18 years published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
Cigarette smoke damages our mental health, too
The researchers found that students who smoked had rates of clinical depression that were twice to three times higher than did their non-smoking peers.
Many in LA jails could be diverted into mental health treatment
The largest mental health facilities in the US are now county jails, with an estimated 15% of men and 31% of women who are incarcerated in jails nationally having a serious and persistent mental disorder.
The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: Mental health harms related to very frequent social media use in girls might be due to exposure to cyberbullying, loss of sleep or reduced physical activity
Very frequent use of social media may compromise teenage girls' mental health by increasing exposure to bullying and reducing sleep and physical exercise, according to an observational study of almost 10,000 adolescents aged 13-16 years studied over three years in England between 2013-2015, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
More Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.