Sexism, Playboy Behavior Linked To Mental Health Issues, Study Finds

By McCarton Ackerman 11/23/16

Traits like sexual promiscuity, power over women and general playboy behavior were most closely linked to mental health issues.

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Sexism, Playboy Behavior Linked To Mental Health Issues, Study Finds

Being a misogynist isn’t just socially repugnant, but could also be harmful to your mental health.

A new study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, found links between sexist behavior and mental health issues including substance abuse and depression. The project was led by Joel Wong, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Indiana University Bloomington, who synthesized the results of 70 studies that tracked 19,000 men over an 11-year period.

Wong tracked 11 traits common to traditional views of masculinity, such as risk-taking, a desire to win and pursuit of status. The findings showed that sexual promiscuity, power over women and general playboy behavior were some of the traits most closely linked to mental health issues. Self-reliance was another common trait; a classic example of this, says Wong, is when men refuse to ask for directions when they’re lost. Perhaps unsurprisingly, men who exhibited these traits were also less likely to seek treatment.

Ten of the 11 traits he tracked were linked to mental health issues, with “primacy of work” (or prioritizing work) being the lone exception.

"Perhaps this is a reflection of the complexity of work and its implications for well-being,” noted Wong in a statement. "An excessive focus on work can be harmful to one's health and interpersonal relationships, but work is also a source of meaning for many individuals."

According to Cindy McAlpin of the Hanley Center, an addiction treatment center in West Palm Beach, Florida, men also play a role in problematic drinking and drug use among women. Some believe it’s a direct response to misogyny.

“Treatment centers report that their women clients from mid-level and higher management positions have said they felt the need to hold their own on many fronts, including macho drinking behaviors when out with colleagues,” wrote McAlpin for the American Bar Association's GPSolo magazine in 2006. “Although this issue is seldom discussed, it seems part of women’s struggle to be seen as equals and admitted to higher strata of power.”

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that 15.8 million women had used illicit drugs in the past year in 2014, while 4.6 million women had misused prescription drugs in the past year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2013 that a woman goes to the ER for prescription abuse or misuse every three minutes.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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