Background: Previous work has found that traditional masculinity ideals and behaviors play a crucial role in higher rates of morbidity and mortality for men. Some studies also suggest that threatening men’s masculinity can be stressful. Over time, this stress can weigh on men’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems, which may contribute to men’s higher rates of cardiometabolic health issues. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore how masculinity threats affect men’s heart rate and heart rate variability reactivity (i.e., vagal withdrawal) to masculinity feedback on a social speaking task. Methods: Two hundred and eighty-five undergraduate males were randomly assigned to one of six conditions during a laboratory-based speech task. They received one of two feedback types (masculinity or control) and one of three feedback levels (low, high, or dropping) in order to assess whether masculinity threats influence heart rate reactivity and vagal withdrawal patterns during the speech task. Results: Men who receive low masculinity feedback during the speech task experienced more pronounced vagal withdrawal relative to those who received the control. Conclusion: Masculinity threats can induce vagal withdrawal that may accumulate over the life course to contribute to men’s relatively worse cardiometabolic health.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Heart rate variability
- Men’s health
- Vagal withdrawal