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Toxic masculinity found to actually affect men’s health
Photography Christian Erfurt, via Unsplash

Toxic masculinity found to have an actual effect on men’s health

A new study confirms hypermasculinity is both physically and mentally toxic

As well as enforcing patriarchal ideas and having a detrimental impact on men’s mental health, a new study reveals that toxic masculinity can also lead to financial problems and poor physical health for men later in life.

According to research published in the Sex Roles journal, toxic masculinity is the belief in men being “autonomous and not showing a lot of emotion”, with ‘macho’ men being more likely to suffer from loneliness because of their hypermasculine, isolationist tendencies. 

“Often, toxic masculinity is a term that we use to describe how masculinity affects other people, especially women,” Michigan State University sociologist, and the study’s co-author, Stef Shuster said in a statement, “but our study shows how toxic masculinity also has detrimental consequences for the men who subscribe to these ideals.”

Researchers analysed over 5,400 “older” men and women, determining the level at which each male participant subscribed to traditionally masculine ideals. Looking at masculinity on a scale, the results showed that ‘macho’ men were less likely than women to confide in others, leading to social isolation, and ultimately having a negative impact on men’s mental and physical health.

“Having people with whom we can talk about personal matters is a form of social support,” explained Shuster. “If people only have one person that they can share information with, or sometimes even no people, they don’t really have an opportunity to reflect and share. Older men who endorse the ideals of toxic masculinity can become siloed off as they age.” 

In 2019, the American Psychological Association released new guidelines to help psychologists work with men and boys. APA asserted that “traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful” and that “socialising boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly”. Part of this damage can be seen through men’s lack of self-care, including seeking medical and psychological help.

“Because of the way many men have been brought up – to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves – any sense that things aren’t OK needs to be kept secret,” Fredric Rabinowitz, the guidelines’ author, said in a statement. “Part of what happens is that men who keep things to themselves look outward and see that no one else is sharing any of the conflicts that they feel inside. That makes them feel isolated; they think they’re alone; they think they’re weak. They don’t realise that other men are also harbouring private thoughts, emotions, and conflicts.”

Although it might be easy to identify toxic traits in men, getting them to change their beliefs might be impossible. “Can you change someone’s ideological principles?” Shuster concluded. “I think that’s a harder sell than trying to get people to believe that social isolation is incredibly detrimental to their health. It’s about learning how to offer tools for people not to be socially isolated and helping them develop the capacity to recognise that all of the ways they have upheld being so-called ‘real men’ is not going to work for them as they age.”