When men are sexist towards women, they could be harming themselves as well

Support us and go ad-free

The American Psychological Association (APA) has published research that shows conforming to masculine norms is associated with negative mental health outcomes.

The harm caused by traditional masculinity

Researchers looked at 11 norms generally considered by experts to reflect society’s expectations of what it means to be a man. The association between conforming to these norms and mental health issues was strongest for three norms in particular. These are self-reliance, pursuit of playboy behaviour, and power over women.

Conforming to the self-reliance norm may explain why men don’t seek mental health treatment. Seeking help could be a sign of weakness; of having to rely on someone else in a difficult situation. The result of this stigma, however, is an untreated mental health problem. The struggle becomes something to be ashamed of. And this only exacerbates the harm.

But the other two norms – pursuit of playboy behaviour and power over women – relate to sexist attitudes towards women. The findings illustrate that when men are sexist towards women they are more likely to be depressed, abuse substances, be dissatisfied with life, and avoid counselling.

As previously reported at The Canary, the expectation for men to be the breadwinner also negatively affects their well-being. Other masculine norms which may harm men’s mental health include:

  • A desire to win.
  • A need for emotional control.
  • Risk-taking.
  • Violence.
  • Dominance.
  • A disdain for homosexuality.
  • Pursuit of status.

Correlation does not equal causation

A key aspect of the study that is worth highlighting is that the findings show a correlation. Just because sexist attitudes towards women are linked to mental health issues, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one causes the other.

Lead author Y. Joel Wong said the study:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

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.

But while the research highlights a link, what the APA paper doesn’t tell us is the direction of the causation. Nor does the research show if another variable is involved. It could be that mental health issues make men more likely to hold sexist attitudes. If this is the case, the findings would still be the same.


For example, men with mental health issues might engage in playboy behaviour, or want power over women, because it gives them a sense of control.

People suffering from depression often feel that their life is out of control. There are certain coping mechanisms that, while ultimately harmful, give the person a sense that they can control their life. Using substances can be a way for the person to take some action to alleviate their mental suffering.

Likewise, self-harm can provide some relief and allow someone to feel that they’re in control. But as with drug abuse, it is a coping strategy that can lead to even greater harm.

Sexist attitudes may be similar, in some respects. Trying to gain power over women might offer a sense of control, but it will still leave deeper issues unaddressed. And, again similar to substance abuse, it is not just the abuser who suffers, but loved ones as well.

The relationship between sexism and mental health isn’t necessarily a one-way street. It could be that sexist attitudes increase the likelihood of mental health issues, but the opposite could also be true. Other factors – such as age, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic background – could also impact the degree of this relationship.

Get Involved!

– Support Refuge and CALM.

Featured image via Public Domain Pictures

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed