New Research Summary: How do beliefs about the precariousness of manhood impact men's health?
We sat down with Joseph Vandello, Ph.D. (University of South Florida) to talk about his new article published in our flagship journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinities. In the article, entitled "Precarious Manhood and Men's Physical Health Around the World," Vandello and colleagues explored the role of belief's about the precarious nature of manhood on men's risk-related health behaviors and outcomes. This important work suggests that country-level beliefs about the precariousness of manhood status are related to men's risky health behaviors and adverse health outcomes cross-culturally. We encourage readers to check it out!
Vandello, J. A., Wilkerson, M., Bosson, J. K., Wiernik, B. M., & Kosakowska-Berezecka, N. (2022). Precarious manhood and men’s physical health around the world. Psychology of Men & Masculinities. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000407
What were the key questions you were addressing in this article?
We sought to understand cultural differences in men’s health behaviors and outcomes. Why do men live healthier, longer lives in some places than others? Obviously, this is a complex question with multiple answers, but our focus was on people’s beliefs about manhood as a predictor. We collected data from 60 countries about beliefs that manhood is a precarious social status, and we correlated country-level scores on that belief with various health-related behaviors and outcomes. We wanted to see if this very simple little 4-item measure of precarious manhood beliefs could tell us anything about men’s health across cultures.
What were the main conclusions of your article?
We found evidence that country-level differences in the extent to which people endorse the belief that manhood is precarious predict a range of risky health behaviors and health outcomes for men. On average, these associations are fairly modest. But the cumulative effect is large. One of the most striking findings was that men in countries most endorsing of precarious manhood have a life expectancy of over six fewer years than men in countries that are least endorsing of precarious manhood.
What are some key implications of your findings for future research or practice?
I think the main takeaway is that men’s health is influenced by their beliefs about manhood. We know that things like diet, exercise, and lifestyle contribute to health, but those things are in turn influenced by psychological gender beliefs. The behaviors that men do that protect or harm their health may be a product of larger cultural beliefs about manhood.
Where do you see this line of research heading in the future (i.e., what's next)?
Two directions. First, this research connects precarious manhood and men’s health at the broad, cultural level. But we’d also like to show that this same relationship holds at the individual level. That is, do individual men who strongly endorse precarious manhood, or men who experience a temporary threat to their masculinity, make risky health decisions?
Second, this project is part of a larger cross-cultural project (https://towardsgenderharmony.ug.edu.pl/) about gender stereotypes and gender roles. We have data from about 60 countries on precarious manhood endorsement, and we are exploring how these country-level associations predict other things, like LGBTQ attitudes and violence against women.
How did you become interested in this line of inquiry?
I’ve been researching how manhood is a precarious social status for twenty years. Jennifer
Bosson and I developed a theory of precarious manhood some year ago, and we’ve been
exploring the implications of this belief system for things like aggression, risk-taking,
interpersonal relationships, sex, and treatment of gender nonconformers. I’ve also long been interested in cultural factors that contribute to gender beliefs. So, this project on men’s health is really a natural evolution of these interests.
Authors (in order of appearance): Joseph Vandello, Mariah Wilkerson, Jennifer Bosson, Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka, and Brenton Wiernik