Economic gloom hits men harder than women: study

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Recessions gripping economies around the world will hit men harder than women as job insecurity threatens an inherent sense of masculinity, damaging mental health, a British researchers said this month.

Pedestrians walk past the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc building in New York in this file photo from September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

A study by Cambridge University showed that despite more women than men losing their jobs in Britain due to the credit crunch, men who think they may be fired or made redundant are likely to become more stressed and depressed than women.

As the economic slowdown wears on, the effects of job insecurity will take a greater toll on men’s health than that of their female counterparts, the study found.

“In part there is a macho issue about men being the breadwinner,” said Dr Brendan Burchell from the University of Cambridge’s sociology department, who compiled the study.

“Men, unlike women, have few positive ways of defining themselves outside of the workplace between when they leave school and when they retire.”

He said that despite several decades of more equal employment opportunities for men and women, men retain traditional beliefs that their masculinity is threatened if their employment is threatened.”

The study cited a Populus poll released earlier this year which showed that women, more than men, say they are worried about the possibility of losing their jobs.

But the Cambridge study found that while men may put on a braver face, job insecurity causes more symptoms of anxiety and depression in men than in women.

Analyzing data from 300 current British employees, combined with a survey of thousands of people by the Economic and Social Research Council charting the effects of social and economic change since 1991, it found that when unemployed men move into insecure jobs, they showed no improvement in psychological health.

For unemployed women, even finding an insecure job helped to restore psychological health.

Burchell said the long-term decline in mental well-being can also be worse for people who are under threat of losing their jobs than for those who are actually made redundant.

“Given that most economic forecasts predict that the recession will be long with a slow recovery, the results mean that many people -- and men in particular -- could be entering into a period of prolonged and growing misery.”

Reporting by Kate Kelland. Editing by Paul Casciato