Masculinity got you down? A groundbreaking new study suggests that could very well be the case.
Research conducted by Indiana University Bloomington found that men who conform to stereotypically masculine behaviors have “poorer mental health and less favorable attitudes toward seeking psychological help.”
Researchers made this conclusion after synthesizing the results of 78 studies encompassing nearly 20,000 participants. Within these studies, they examined how conventionally masculine traits negatively impacted men’s mental health and their likelihood to seek help for those issues.
The researchers looked at 11 different societal norms deemed “traditionally masculine” – including disdain for homosexuality, primacy of work, self-reliance, sexual promiscuity, power over women and risk-taking.
Of those behaviors, the majority showed some connection to poor mental health, with three showing the strongest links to negative mental health outcomes: sexual promiscuity, self-reliance and power over women.
The study’s lead author, Joel Wong, told Broadly the results weren’t necessarily shocking.
"It supports and confirms research done in the last 60 years that people who conform to masculinity have poor mental health."
One surprising finding, according to Wong, was that the relationship between mental health and masculinity varied depending on the stereotypically masculine trait. The relationship between primacy of work (AKA placing strong importance on work) and mental health, for example, was “not correlated with any of the mental health outcomes at all.
Wong said one of the most worrying conclusions from the study was that stereotypically masculine behaviors may be keeping men from seeking critical help for mental health issues. He added, however, that there’s plenty society can do to help dismantle damaging concepts of stereotypical masculinity.
"I think it's possible to challenge and dismantle these norms." Wong said.
"Two things: one, individuals and people do change and two, norms change over time. So that as a gender principle gives us hope."