Sexist men more likely to suffer from mental health problems – study

© Reuters
Men who see themselves as playboys or having power over women are generally seen as arrogant and chauvinistic – but there could be more at play than just a bad attitude. A new study found that sexist males are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

The research, conducted by the American Psychological Association and published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology on Monday, involved a meta-analysis of 78 research samples involving 19,453 men over the course of 11 years.

Those samples focused on the relationship between mental health and conformity to 11 norms generally considered by experts to reflect society's view of traditional masculinity.

The 11 norms involved in the meta-analysis included 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; and pursuit of status.

In addition, the researchers focused on three broad types of mental health outcomes: negative mental health (including depression), positive mental health (life satisfaction), and psychological help seeking (including the pursuit of counseling services).
Following the research, the study's authors found that men who conformed more strongly to traditional masculinity experienced poorer overall mental health.

"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," lead author Y. Joel Wong of Indiana University Bloomington said in a statement.

Wong and his colleagues specifically found that the norms of self-reliance, pursuit of playboy behavior, and power over women were the three most associated with negative mental outcomes.

"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," Wong said.

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He noted, however, that primacy of work was not significantly associated with any of the mental health-related outcomes.

"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," he said.

Despite the findings identifying those more likely to suffer from poorer mental health, Wong stressed that those very people are actually less likely to seek mental health treatment.

The samples examined by Wong and his colleagues were all US-based, and focused predominantly on white males. Some, however, focused on African-Americans and Asian-Americans.