Strong, silent and sick: Masculinity is toxic to men’s health and well-being

It has long been observed that women live longer than men, worldwide. On average, the life expectancy for women is six years greater than for men. It’s a conundrum- after all, men tend to have more privilege, opportunities, and power than women and girls in many societies. Why then, are health outcomes for males so often worse than for females? The answer lies not in biology but from examining the social determinants of health.

Social determinants of health- as defined by the World Health Organization- refer to the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems that shape daily life. Gender plays a crucial role in all our life experiences; it is one of the main social determinants of health and wellness. However, it’s not the sexual and reproductive organs themselves that have such power, but the meaning and conditions that people and society attach to those organs; in other words- gender roles and notions of masculinity and femininity.

In many societies, women are conditioned to think of themselves as ‘the weaker/dependent sex’, and men the dominant ones. Entire cultural and religious traditions have been created to reinforce this notion, along with others about power, control, and the ‘ordering’ of society. These ‘norms’- artificial though they are- have taken on a great deal of significance, impacting multiple facets of daily life. Men’s health, in particular, suffers as a result of societal conditioning and harmful notions of masculinity.

Worldwide, studies have shown that women are more likely than men to use health services. While this disparity may reflect women’s increased use of services during their reproductive years, the fact is that men’s health gets far less attention compared to women. For instance- women have become accustomed over the years to messages telling them to check their breasts for cancer. There are annual walks, awareness programs, screening campaigns etc. This is necessary since breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women worldwide (Note: men can get breast cancer too, but that is much rarer). There are cancers- such as testicular and prostate cancer- that affect men specifically. However, not as much attention is given to these diseases or to educating men about how to detect them. How many men reading this column, for example, have ever given themselves a testicular exam? How many have ever gotten their prostate checked?

Testicular cancer is a highly treatable and very curable form of cancer. It typically affects younger rather than older men, and can occur in one or both testicles. Prostate cancer develops in older men- almost 99% of cases are in men over age 50- and is one of the most common cancers worldwide, being the second most common cancer diagnosed in men. No matter the kind of cancer however, the earlier it is detected, the better one’s chances of survival generally are. As such, men need to be informed about how to conduct testicular self-examination and encouraged to get regular prostate cancer screening as they age. (Note- there is some controversy about prostate cancer screening with some organizations recommending against it as it may lead to over-diagnosis.)

Men however, are notorious for neglecting their health, ignoring and downplaying concerns, delaying seeking care, and not following treatment regimes as directed. Sociocultural practices that have conditioned boys and men to not show pain, hide their emotions, and ‘be tough’ are hugely to blame. Some men avoid seeking sexual and reproductive healthcare because they are unwilling and uncomfortable with having other men touch them, even if it’s done in a professional setting.

Men’s ego can also sometimes be a barrier to the achievement of good health. Because some men may not feel comfortable admitting when they do not fully understand something- such as the advice and recommendations from a doctor or other healthcare professional- they may misuse medication or not follow up with additional treatment options as needed. And while men may often brag about their sexual conquests, they can be less open to discussing their risk-taking behaviors and the psychological and social factors that may be behind such behaviors.

Economic pressure for men to be the ‘provider’ and breadwinner for their families and loved ones can also significantly negatively impact men’s health and wellness. Men desperate for employment may accept dangerous working conditions and not report hazardous situations or injuries they receive on the job site. They may overwork themselves and not allocate enough time for rest and recuperation.

Social conditioning can also affect men’s ability to acknowledge- both personally and publicly- when they are suffering from emotional distress. Men and boys in particular, are not educated or encouraged to be ‘emotionally intelligent’- ie to share their feelings, be vulnerable, and express themselves openly to others. This can affect men’s ability to provide a comprehensive medical history to their healthcare provider, as well as to acknowledge illnesses such as depression. As a result, men who experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns often do not get the care and counseling that could make their lives better. Instead, too many turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their suffering.

Gender’s impact on health and wellness cannot be ignored; it must be acknowledged, and education and interventions tailored to take gender issues/roles into consideration at all times. However, to really achieve improved health and wellness over the long term, we must fundamentally change the established gender ‘norms’ and harmful notions of masculinity and femininity that have taken root in our societies.

We must teach boys and men to be sensitive, open and expressive, and to value themselves and others. We must create environments that support, prioritize, and promote empathy, critical thinking and inquiry, and social connectedness. We must re-define what it means to be a man/manly. It is not manly to hurt and oppress others, to deny and suppress one’s emotions, or to engage in harmful, risky, or aggressive acts. These traditional ideas of masculinity have become toxic, to men as well as women.

Sherlina can be contacted at


Bobby Vieira & Other Negro Hitmen Will Be A Stain On The APNU AFC Govt

politricks. same shit, different day..

mark jacobs lives!

Bobby Vieira & other negro hitmen are well positioned to become a permanent stain on the apnu-afc govt.
Following the May 11 election a slew of negroes from high places low places and all places crawled out from their fill in the blank clad in yellow and green
Bobby Vieira is one such negro
and this is not about vieira but i use him to highlight the issue of these negroes from all places whispering in president granger’s ear
donning special adviser caps
telling minister’s what to do
brininging new and old junior capitalist plunderers of all order into the fold
to make sure they cash in and cash in fast cause most of these negroids are agent provocateurs who are preparing for a one term apnu afc govt
and i mention again that this is not about vieira as some little negroes who have this read to them will…

View original post 251 more words

What you can do right now to help youths in Guyana

mark jacobs lives!

people always asking what they can do to help
here’s one you can do right now
tomorrow am taking four young men to kuru kuru training centre for a look see. soon three will be taking the entrance exam and go away for nine months of training in a trade of their choosing
they are generally right now engaged in negative activities on the streets, smoking dope, partying, chasing girls etc…the good life as they know it
they are not my children or your children they are our children
we can take care of them now or after they’ve graduated to the penitentiary

food and transportation for a days excursion is approximately 20,000 guyana dollars. 100 US$
i await your good news

View original post

The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About

Drifting Through

image: Shutterstock image: Shutterstock

There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all…

View original post 1,606 more words

Gate A-4

Live & Learn


Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be…

View original post 408 more words

today we read poetry. next week, revolution

listening to the land

“I’m a slow learner. My school days were tough. My mother had 8 children. She tried her best but times were hard. If my family had money, things would have been better. I dropped out in the 4th form. My mother said just don’t make any children and try to do better for yourself.” She’s 26 now. She still doesn’t have any children. She sells sweeties, hair ribbons, and other little things on the pave in Georgetown. At night, she assembles and folds a newspaper she can barely read. She wants to do better though, to write CXCs next year, and get her driver’s license. Today, we read poetry. Next week, revolution.

flying fish