- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

Score one for the old-fashioned he-man: The more masculine a man, the faster he heals.

“For years, experts have said that the strong, silent male is not one to ask for help when he’s hurt, and therefore at a disadvantage when it comes to getting better. But new research says this might not be completely accurate,” according to a new study released yesterday by University of Missouri psychologists.

“This masculine identity often associated with men in the armed forces and other high-risk occupations may actually encourage and quicken a man’s recovery from serious injuries,” the study stated.

It is the first research to draw correlations between masculinity and recovery from injury, challenging previous studies indicating that stalwart manliness could encourage dangerous activities — and discourage men from seeking help.

Last year, for example, psychiatrists at the University of California at Davis found that men who described themselves as “old school” or the “John Wayne type” were difficult to diagnose for depression because it was “in conflict with their own view of themselves as men.”

Manly behavior has been rediscovered. The Missouri study cited the “tenets of traditional masculinity” — including the “ability to withstand hardship, ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ and the willingness to see something through to the end,” as positive health factors.

“It has long been assumed that men are not as concerned and don’t take as good of care of their health,” said lead author Glenn E. Good, an associate professor of psychology at the campus. “But what we’re seeing here is that the same ideas that led to their injuries may actually encourage their recovery.”

Mr. Good investigated both the “help-seeking” activities and outcomes of men with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. His findings confirmed that while nine of 17 “masculinity-related indicators” did not prompt the men to seek psychological help, the “desire for status and success” positively influenced their functional independence, from initial hospitalization through one-year follow-up.

“Most people with serious injuries are provided primarily biomedical treatments, but it is important to look at psycho-social issues that affect their recovery as well,” he said. “In terms of a social response, this study encourages us to redefine strength and masculinity in ways that benefit every stage of health care.”

The findings also shed some light on what wounded troops face upon their return home, Mr. Good said.

“The war in Iraq is the first in which such a large number of soldiers are surviving injuries that would once have been fatal, and we as a nation are going to be living with their care for a while,” he said.

The study was published in “Psychology of Men and Masculinity,” a journal published by the American Psychological Association.

Traditional manliness is also getting some cultural play.

Harvey C. Mansfield, a Harvard University government studies professor and author of the 2006 book “Manliness” characterized manliness as “confidence in the face of risk” during a Feb. 21 lecture at Bryn Mawr, a women’s college.

British writer Mark Simpson, who coined the term “metrosexual” to characterize over-feminized men during the 1990s, is now pondering what he calls the “retrosexual” — a burgeoning new American population of regular, manly guys.

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