How to improve men’s health? Cast off role of ‘breadwinner’

Maybe we’ve finally got a way for more men to get on board with the idea of pay equity for women: the health implications for men.

The Atlantic reports today on research from the University of Connecticut which appears to show the deterioration of men’s health by assuming the traditional — outmoded, now — role of breadwinner.

The researchers found that as men’s income increased in comparison with their spouses, their psychological well-being and health declined. The men’s mental and physical health (measured by self-assessment) were at their worst during years when they were their family’s sole breadwinner, according to The Atlantic.

As their wives took on more of the economic burden in the household, men’s health improved, the researchers said.

This would appear to blow holes in the notion that if men aren’t the “breadwinners”, they are emasculated.

“I’m very familiar with the emasculation literature. I was really surprised to find this other relationship,” Christin Munsch, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, said.

The gender expectations are from a different era now, she tells The Atlantic. Men now see “breadwinning” as an obligation; women see it as an opportunity.

“There are women who want to stay home with kids, and there are men who want to be breadwinners,” Munsch said. “But if we can take the gender component out of this—and just ask our partners what everyone wants to bring to the table here versus what we’re expected to bring to the table— I think everyone is going to be better off.”

Guardian columnist Dave Schilling puts it less delicately.

“Guys, if you truly hate working and cannot stand the ascetic drudgery of ambition, then I say this to you: quit. Get out of the way. Let a competent, motivated woman do your job. You’re taking up space and sucking wind that would be better served going to an enthusiastic person, no matter their gender identity,” he writes today.