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Do alpha males die earlier?

Toxic masculinity would lead to a shorter life expectancy

Do alpha males die earlier? Toxic masculinity would lead to a shorter life expectancy

For many years, psychology has recognized how male behaviors can be influenced by social conventions, contributing to a range of expectations and virility stereotypes, manifested in expressions like "be a man" or "don't act like a girl." These trends can encourage the so-called toxic masculinity, leading to behaviors associated with dominance and misogyny. The relationship between gender stereotypes in male groups and aggressive, persistent, or even reckless attitudes has been the focus of what is termed men’s studies. In this research field, masculinity is described as an attribute to be demonstrated; however, it is also precarious, exposed to external approval—whether from a group or society. The concept of "macho" often represents a status requiring constant confirmation. From this perspective, daring or violent behaviors become an opportunity to prove—to oneself or others—that one is a "real man." Recently, a psychological study conducted in over 60 countries delved into, synthesizing, and generalizing the implications of being an "alpha male" on the health of men. Spoiler: toxic masculinity brings no benefits of any kind.

Virility stereotypes promote harmful behaviors

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The research was mainly conducted by a group from the psychology department of the University of South Florida, involving over 33,000 students between 2018 and 2020. They were asked a series of questions about their beliefs regarding gender biases. Specifically, it emerged that in Albania, Iran, Nigeria, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Ghana, virility stereotypes and masculinity, in general, are deeply ingrained, while Finland, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden have the lowest levels. Italy—among the countries with the largest participant sample—ranks in the middle, showing average results. The research group then sought to understand how the collected evidence was associated with dangerous behaviors. They did this by comparing the results with extensive historical data, such as smoking habits, alcohol abuse, substance-related disorders, and close encounters with poisonous animals. The researchers noted that in countries with deeply rooted beliefs about masculinity, there is a greater tendency to have harmful habits and suffer from health conditions related to these behaviors. Finally, the scholars wondered if all this was also linked to a lower life expectancy, and a more pronounced correlation was found. In countries where masculinity is more emphasized, there is a 6-year lower life expectancy—men would live, on average, 6 years less.

What are men’s studies, and what do they tell us about masculinity

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In 2022, the Alpini gathering took place in Rimini, where over a hundred women reported physical and verbal harassment. The association representing this military corps, Anpi, deemed the possibility of "rudeness incidents" "physiological" when "hundreds of thousands of people gather in one location to celebrate." Men’s studies aim to provide scientific answers to such incidents, demonstrating that gender stereotypes among males favor violent and dangerous behaviors—for themselves and others (over 80% of all homicides, for example, are committed by men). Although the first academic texts for men’s studies date back to the '80s, the issues addressed by this research field are of growing interest, thanks to increased public sensitivity to gender issues. In Italy, the Maschile Plurale association plays a significant role in promoting and contributing to this debate, encouraging anti-sexist positions. A more open and less stereotypical view of masculinity could better help men face many adverse events and conditions. A 2015 study, based on a sample of over 2,000 young people aged 18 to 19, found that those identifying with rigid gender beliefs—such as the idea that males should not be vulnerable—were more likely to develop signs of depression. Conversely, reducing the risk of generating anger and frustration, more flexible models of masculinity, not based on the concept of dominance, can result in a higher life expectancy for men.