Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Across the globe, health outcomes for men are significantly worse than for women, yet these gender-based disparities in disease and well-being have received scant attention from medical anthropologists. Ironically, the poorer health outcomes for men in both morbidity and mortality were uncovered after the completion of large prospective epidemiological studies of women (the Million Women Study). This paper describes a research agenda for examining male gender and health from a biocultural medical anthropological perspective. Life-long exposure to androgens is characteristic of human males. This attenuates immune response and is also linked to behaviors, like violence, that are harmful to health. Culturally patterned ideologies of masculinity, shaped through socialization, clearly play a central role in causing poorer health outcomes. This “men’s health gap” is particularly acute among men who are marginalized due to the intersectionality of their gender identities with racial, ethnic, sexual and socioeconomic positionalities. It is significant that men’s comparatively higher statuses, which afford them greater access to power, privilege and opportunity, do not translate into more robust health outcomes. Medical anthropological approaches this topic must be simultaneously biological, cultural, cross-cultural, evolutionary, psychological and epidemiological.