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Gender Role Expectation as a Source of Men’s Health and Mental Health Disparaties

Men are more likely to die than women for all 15 leading causes of death; the average life expectancy for a male, at birth, is 74.6 years, while for women it’s 79.6 years. This is because,

  • Men do not seek out medical or mental health information and take less responsibility for their health issues than women. As a result, men are more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, HIV infection, accidents, and suicide.
  • Men are less likely to see themselves as physically or mentally ill, and, often delay or do not seek medical care or counseling when needed, even after the development of symptoms.
  • Men are much less likely to consult a doctor, therapist, or even a dentist, and therefore prolong or succumb to treatable illnesses.
  • Men take greater risks with their health than women; men are more likely to drink, smoke, be overweight, use drugs, or expose themselves to UV radiation without using sunscreen, and are more likely than women to be at fault for a major or minor automobile accident.

Men are not inherently less healthy than women. The source of these gender differences in physical and mental health issues are rooted in the pressures that men feel in order to live up to a masculine image or role that dictate that men should not show weakness, pain, or emotional struggle.  Men avoid medical help or mental health support because exposing or talking about their fears, struggles, or “feelings” is viewed as admitting vulnerability and weakness. Men have been taught to “stuff their pain” as a show of strength.  As a result, men’s mental and physical health problems go unreported and undiagnosed. Men, therefore, often find themselves contracting or prolonging many diseases or mental health issues that could otherwise be prevented. Beliefs about masculinity also encourage men to self-medicate emotional, psychological, and physical pain through abuse of alcohol, drugs, violence, and other risky behaviors.

Moshe Rozdzial,LPC, is a Psychotherapist and Certified Sex Therapist in private practice in Denver, Colorado, at Glow Counseling, www.glowcounseling.com.



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