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Rocky Relationships Harder for Men

Strained Romantic Relationships Take a Bigger Emotional Toll on Men, Not Women, New Study Says
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Men Not Immune to Relationship Stress

So what’s going on here?

“Men need partner support more than women do, significantly so,” Simon tells WebMD. “Having experienced a breakup is more harmful to women, and being in a relationship is more beneficial to women. It has to do with identity factors.”

Women have more social networks, in general, than men do, she says.

The findings are contrary to research-based conventional wisdom in part because long-held assumptions have not been questioned.

“Research is influenced by the culture, and it’s been this long-term assumption that women are more vulnerable,” Simon tells WebMD. “The public assumes men are strong and don’t care about these things, and that’s simply not the case.”

Men who are jilted or lose girlfriends are “more likely to drink,” Simon says. “Women respond by internalizing problems. I think it is culturally normative for women to become depressed. You have this generalized upset, and it gets filtered differently by men and women.”

About half of the respondents were men, the other half women. The survey data were originally gathered for a long-term study of mental health and the transition to adulthood.

The authors say there’s a lot more to learn about these young adult relationships.

“Our findings highlight the need to consider the period in the life course as well as experiences of specific cohorts of men and women when theorizing about gender differences in the importance of intimate relationships for mental health,” the authors write.

They also conclude that:

  • Intimate (sexual) relationships are associated with enhanced emotional well-being in adulthood, though not necessarily in adolescence.
  • Partner support is good for mental health, and strain is harmful.

“We do not know the extent to which non-marital romantic relationships are important for emotional well-being during the transition to adulthood, and whether they are differently important for young women and men,” the researchers write.

Of respondents:

  • 57% were in a current romantic relationship.
  • 36% had experienced a breakup in the previous year.
  • 21% of those in a relationship at the time they were surveyed also had experienced a breakup in the past year.

“Future research should focus on why some dimensions of these relationships matter more for young women’s mental health and others matter more for young men,” the authors conclude.

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