men and ms

How masculinity can affect men’s health behaviours with MS

Male multiple sclerosis (MS) patients display different health-related behaviour depending on which masculine ideals they value, according to a new study. MS in men is less common – the condition affects women almost three times more than men, but men tend to have worse disease outcomes and motor symptoms.

Holding certain masculine values, such as putting importance on having control over emotions, tended to correspond with poorer self-care. However, men that reported being concerned with appearing heterosexual had a greater tendency toward self-care.

The research focused on white males in America who had relatively advanced MS – the mean time since diagnosis was more than 12 years, and the average age was 51.

“Masculinity adherence to traditional gender norms was a significant predictor of how men engaged in health behaviours,” the researchers wrote. For example, if some men see vulnerability, dependence and weakness as non-masculine traits, they may not seek help for that reason.

They added that while gender roles in society can teach men helpful things, such as independence and provision, knowing how gender roles can affect how someone manages their condition is helpful to know for the medical profession because it can help identify which resources are needed to better manage MS in men.