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Outdated male stereotypes fuelling poor mental health in young men

Advertisers using outdated views of masculinity are having a detrimental effect on the mental health of young men.

According to a survey of 2,000 men carried out by CALM, almost two thirds (64%) of men between 18 and 34 think that the cause for poor mental health among men is the use of toxic male stereotypes in advertising and media.

In particular, younger men feel that the depiction of their demographic as 'players' is offensive, with 79% of respondents thinking the same of the 'sex-obsessed' label for young men.

A similar opinion can be seen for stereotypes of men as being 'always strong' and 'a lad' which almost half of young men (46%) see as detrimental and dangerous.

Social media was identified as a prominent platform for these stereotypes as 75% of young men said that they think social media is making it hard to remain mentally healthy.

"‘Strong’ doesn’t mean being silent but it’s a decades old issue and we’re working every day to try to tackle it," says CALM, in an article outlining its findings. "By simply allowing men to show vulnerability we will go a long way to improve the situation for so many."

Read more: Men are now more likely than ever before to see their GP about their mental health

The survey also reveals how these pressures affect men of different age groups, highlighting how outdated stereotypes are impacting younger men more.

Around 1 in 7 (14%) young men have thought about self-harming and almost 4 in 10 (39%) admit to feeling overwhelmed.

In men 35 and over, just 4% and 17% of men reported the same effects on their mental health.

A disparity could also be seen in how likely men felt they should look a certain way – 59% in 18 to 34-year-olds vs 30% of men 35 and older.

To combat these issues, 80% of the men surveyed think that brands should promote a more positive impression of men's mental health.

Specifically, they think advertisers should focus more on presenting men as ‘competent parents’, normalising getting help, and showing men that it is okay to fail.

"It shows that the public needs to see realistic depictions of men – men who are good at what they do and good dads and also open, vulnerable and emotional," says CALM.

"The research reveals a generational divide between men of different ages and how they struggle differently with their mental health – and highlighted a promising shift for younger men."


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health

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