Why ‘masculinity’ may shorten men’s lives: A Rutgers study
New research out of Rutgers University has some bold advice for the men of New Jersey: Don't be so tough, and you may live longer.
A series of studies from a pair of Rutgers psychologists sought to find a reason why males have a shorter life expectancy than females. Physiological differences don't explain the trend, they said, so what would?
Their research, published in Preventive Medicine and The Journal of Health Psychology, uncovered a disturbing pattern that could be contributing to the difference in life expectancy.
Using questionnaires and in-person evaluations, authors Diana Sanchez and Mary Himmelstein determined men who consider themselves "masculine" — brave and self-reliant — were more likely than women to ignore medical problems.
"The idea here is that you're trying to appear strong, not appear weak, and that disclosing any physical health problems may challenge your masculinity in some way," said Sanchez, a professor of psychology at Rutgers.
But the same research found that even when men do seek medical attention, they are more likely to choose a male doctor and still aren't fully truthful about their symptoms.
To determine this, participants were interviewed by both male and female medical students.
"If you really want men to be honest in the doctor's office, you have to make sure that they feel comfortable being vulnerable, which is something that might be hard for some men," said Himmelstein, a doctoral candidate at Rutgers.
Himmelstein added men were more likely to choose a male as their medical professional, in part, because men believe male doctors are more competent than female doctors.
Taking all the data into consideration, Sanchez said it may not always be good advice for men to "man up," especially when their health is at stake.
"Masculinity shouldn't be something you have to prove," she said. "When guys are trying to prove it, it turns out that this might lead to the detriment of their health."
Finding a doctor with whom they're comfortable is key to reversing this trend as well. In some cases, that doctor may be a female.