Understanding Men’s Mental Health: Gender Relations and Mental Well-Being
Men’s mental health has remained understudied and undertheorised. Much of the early research on men’s mental health comes from large scale quantitative studies focusing on gender differences in mental illness. It is only in recent years that the influence of gender as a social construct has become the focus for researchers interested in men’s mental health, particularly depression. This study uses a life history method underpinned by gender relations theory to explore how men’s everyday social practices can help or hinder mental well-being. Life history interviews were undertaken with fifteen New Zealand men aged between twenty and forty years based in the Wellington area. The interviews explored participant’s emotional lives, work lives, family and social relationships, and how they engaged with their mental health on a day-to-day basis. Gender relations theory was used to examine the complex interplay between masculinity and mental health within each man’s life story. Individual theorised life histories were written up for each participant. Four of these are presented in this thesis. A collective analysis was then undertaken using all fifteen life histories and similarities and differences in patterns of social practice were examined across all participants. The findings illustrate the diversity in men’s social, emotional, work, help-seeking and mental health promoting practices and highlight not only the ways in which these can hinder or help men’s mental well-being, but how men are active agents in constructing masculinity through these social practices. Whether a man pursues a hegemonic pattern of masculinity, remains ambivalent or embodies a resistant masculinity, his social practices have varying costs and benefits to his overall mental health. Finally, this study argues for the need to address cultural ideals of masculinity in order to support and promote men’s mental health.
Advisor: Collings, Sunny; River, Jo; Jenkin, Gabrielle
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Public Health
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: men; masculinities; gender relations; mental health; qualititative; mental wellbeing; life-history
Research Type: Thesis