Stress Affects Men's Health More
Major Traumas Could be Hazardous to Men's Health
Sept. 25, 2002 -- When it comes to handling life's blows, women may be stronger and better equipped to handle stress than men. New research suggests that stressful events have a bigger impact on men's health than women's.
The study found men who suffered a stressful life event were more likely than women to miss work due to illness in the following months. The researchers say the findings add to a growing body of research that shows stress can have a big impact on later health problems.
Researchers followed nearly 3,000 full-time, healthy municipal employees in Finland and asked them whether or not they had experienced one of the following major life events in the preceding 12 months:
- Death or serious illness of a family member.
- Being a victim of physical, sexual or psychological violence.
- Severe interpersonal conflict, such as divorce.
- Severe financial difficulties caused by job loss or other causes.
They also asked them questions about their mental health and health behaviors, then tracked the number of sick days the workers took in the year that followed to gauge changes in health.
For men, all of the stressful events except interpersonal conflict were significantly associated with an increase in sick days.
Interpersonal problems, financial difficulties, and violence among men were linked to psychological problems, such as anxiety, mental distress, and lack of coherence. Finanacial diificulties and violence were also associated with heightened use of cigarettes and alcohol, which was thought to lead to sick days.
For women, none of these events increased the likelihood of a sick leave. But all events caused increased psychological problems for women. Interpersonal conflicts and financial difficulties also were associated with alcohol abuse among women.
Researcher Mika Kivimaki, PhD, of the department of psychology at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues say men who reported a stressful event tended to have smaller support networks than women, which might provide a partial explanation for their higher vulnerability.
The study appears in the September/October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.