Toxic masculinity could mean bad health, social life in old age: Study

Hyper-masculine older men have a higher chance of struggling with physical and mental health

If you’re a man who likes to act “manly," there’s a chance you may suffer from health- and social-related issues later in life. Or at least that’s what a new study from Michigan State University is suggesting.

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“Our study shows how toxic masculinity also has detrimental consequences for the men who subscribe to these ideals,” said the university’s assistant professor and sociologist Stef Shuster in MSU Today. “Older men who endorse the ideals of toxic masculinity can become siloed off as they age. Not all older men are at risk — just those who favor a particular set of ideals.”

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Toxic masculinity is defined as a cultural expectation that standardizes aggressive male behavior in a way that’s harmful to women, society and men themselves, according to Dictionary.com. The online resource cites statements like “be a man” and “only girls cry” as examples of toxic masculinity.

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The concept is likely to harm older men because data shows that social isolation increases with age.

“The very premise of hegemonic masculinity in some ways is based on the idea of isolation because it’s about being autonomous and not showing a lot of emotion. It’s hard to develop friendships living this way,” Shuster added. “Having people with whom we can talk about personal matters is a form of social support. 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.”

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Men who were described to be toxic from their traditionally masculine ideals were said to be in poor health, lonely and financially challenged as a result of their isolationist tendencies, according to the study.

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Women, on the other hand, were found to be more likely to confide in others, which in turn improved their overall health and social standing.

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To come up with its determinations, the study’s researchers analyzed nearly 5,500 older men and women based on a Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey. The male participants were screened and ranked by how many traditionally masculine ideals they subscribed to.