Getting to the Heart of Masculinity Stressors: Masculinity Threats Induce Pronounced Vagal Withdrawal During a Speaking Task

Brandon L. Kramer, Mary S. Himmelstein, Kristen W. Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)846-855
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Volume51
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Keywords

  • Heart rate variability
  • Masculinity
  • Men’s health
  • Stress
  • Vagal withdrawal

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