Sexist men are likely to have mental health issues, researchers say

A study of close to 20,000 men provides some stark conclusions on the relationship between male sexism and mental health. 

New research, published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, suggests that men who exhibit sexist behavior are more likely to have mental health problems.

"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 Professor Y. Joel Wong of Indiana University Bloomington, the study's lead author.

Wong and his team analyzed 10 years worth of data from 19,453 participants, focusing on the correlation between specific norms of traditional masculinity and mental health. More than half of the studies were comprised of white males, but some included African-American and Asian-American men.

The 11 norms were:

  • 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.
  • The researchers found a connection between mental health issues like depression and substance use and most of the norms of masculinity, but three in particular showed the clearest relationship. These were “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," pointed out 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."

    Only “primacy of work" was not clearly linked to any negative mental health features.

    "Primacy of work was not significantly associated with any of the mental health-related outcomes," explained 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."

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