Strongest man in the world pulls a vehicle by a rope

Health behaviours

Men and women may have different approaches when it comes to health

In some countries gender norms encourage men to be promiscuous, while women may feel they don’t have the right to insist on their partners using condoms. These behaviours don’t help men or women, as they increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections like HIV and add to the complexities of disease control.

Men’s and women’s healthcare-seeking behaviours also tend to be different. Mental health is an area that offers a good example of this. Depression is more common in young women than men, but men are three times more likely to commit suicide.

Could this be because men feel they should be ‘strong’, and are therefore less likely to talk about their problems or seek help? A review of UK studies, for example, found that men visited their GPs about a third less often than women. However, the gap was smaller for people with similar underlying health problems – among those taking antidepressants, men were 8 per cent less likely than women to visit their doctor in a given time period.

It is likely that many of these health behaviours are based on what society expects of us. The ideas that masculinity is about independence and self-reliance, and that taking care of yourself is a feminine behaviour, may actually be harming our health.

Lead image:

Jason Means/Flickr CC BY NC ND


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Sex and Gender’ in January 2006 and reviewed and updated in October 2014.

Genetics and genomics, Statistics and maths, Health, infection and disease
Sex and Gender
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development