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How does stress differ between men and women?

A recent study has found that although men are more likely than women to suffer from depression due to stress, they are less likely suffer from stress in the first instance. Read on to learn more about these differences.

Swimming men and women

Do men and women suffer from stress in the same way?

It is widely accepted that men and women experience stress in different ways. 

Men are less likely to suffer from stress than women. Stress affects three out of four men compared to nine out of ten women.

This is partly due to differences in societal expectations leading to women having more ongoing stressors. For example, the average woman is now more likely to work than in previous decades however still plays the greater role in bringing up children, cooking meals, tending to the home and caring for elderly relatives.

What’s more, men and women have different behaviours driving them to experience stress. Men are more likely to become stressed by the challenge or pace of competition. Women on the other hand, are more likely to become stressed by letting the needs of others set the pace, whilst often ignoring their own needs.

A recent survey showed that men are more likely than women to suffer stress as a result of work pressures. Besides this, women are more likely to be stressed by all other surveyed categories. This includes personal finance, personal health, the health of friends and family, future savings and pensions, weight, and even work life balance.

How does the stress response differ between men and women?

When a man or woman experiences stress, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. These stress response hormones tell the body how to react and are responsible for setting the fight-or-flight response.

Although levels of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol do not differ significantly between men and women who are experiencing stress, men release much less of another hormone called oxytocin. The hormone oxytocin counteracts the impact of the adrenaline and cortisol, nurturing and relaxing emotions.

Lower levels of oxytocin lead to men having a greater tendency to exhibit behaviour more akin to the fight-or-flight response when confronted with a stressful situation. Essentially us chaps are more likely to fight back at the aggressor or bottle it up and run away - withdrawing ourselves from a situation. Our bodies are doing less to calm us down compared to women, and we are more pre-occupied with saving ourselves by conserving energy and less willing to help others. Recent studies have also shown that men tend to show less empathy and support than women when responding to a partner’s emotional expressions of stress and anxiety.

On the contrary, a previous study has suggested that women are more likely to “tend and befriend” when confronted with a stressful situation. In short this means that women prefer to reach out and foster their relationships with others around them. Tending involves actions that are intended not only for self-preservation but for the protection of others as well such as offspring. Befriending relates to creating and maintaining relevant social networks.

Can men and women get depressed from stress?

The evidence shows that women have a stronger genetic disposition for depression and anxiety. Women are also more likely to experience traumatic events such as abuse, harassment and bereavement.

Despite this, men are twice as likely to suffer depression due to stress. One reason could be that the traditional view of masculinity prevents men seeking help and speaking out because admission of being stressed or depressed is seen as a weakness. This results in men thinking that they are better off keeping their problems to themselves which leads to a higher incidence of depression.

How do men and women manage stress?

When it comes to dealing with and managing stress, men and women have different behaviours. A recent survey shows that men are more likely than women to relieve stress by exercising, listening to music and drinking alcohol whereas women are more likely than men to watch television, read a book and eat chocolate.

Men often like to seek an escape from the stress by creating a diversion to get away. The problem with repressing feelings is that men don’t have an outlet for their emotions and as such are ill-prepared and poor at coping with high stress situations.

On the contrary, women often prefer to speak out and seek support to talk about what is getting to them. This helps them process what is happening to them and what could be done to resolve the situation. Women are also more open to talk about their situation with friends, family, colleagues and support groups.

Conclusion

Men are less likely to experience stress than women but are twice as likely to get depressed due to stress. This is partly due to the fact that men do not like to talk about their problems. Men would be better off taking a lesson from the fairer sex by learning to speak out and becoming more open to the help and support of others.

Interested in finding out how stressed you are? Take our stress quiz now to find out.

 

This article was created for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the views of For Chaps Ltd. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.