A new report from The American Psychological Association cites 40 years of research in concluding that “traditional masculinity ideology” has a severely damaging effect on men’s mental health — a finding that likely comes as no surprise to women’s rights activists who have long warned about the dangers of “toxic masculinity.”
According to the APA’s new “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men,” young boys exposed to “traditional masculinity ideology” exhibited limited psychological development, constrained behavior, confusion and stress about gender roles, and overall negative influences to both their “mental health and physical health.” In seeking to conform to “masculinity ideology,” the report said, young boys sought to avoid “the appearance of weakness” or femininity by suppressing their emotions, eschewing assistance from others, and engaging in risky and aggressive behaviors. Among the negative behaviors correlated with “masculinity ideology,” the report continued, were sexual harassment, bullying, increased propensity for violence against both others and themselves, and homophobia.
As evidence, the report noted that despite men being 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, men were nonetheless significantly less likely to be diagnosed with internalizing disorders — a mental disorder associated with depression, anxiety, and loneliness that is characterized by an inability to communicate one’s problems with others. “Traditional stereotypes about men’s emotionality,” the report found, was likely interfering with such diagnoses. In the U.S., the report observed, men also commit 90 percent of homicides and account for 77 percent of homicide victims.
In order to help men raised in such a way, the report called on psychologists to encourage male patients to examine their own biases so that they could better perceive how “power, privilege and sexism work, both by conferring benefits to men and by trapping them in their narrow roles.”