Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bad Marriages Break Men's Hearts, Too

As a postscript to "Bad Marriages Break (Women's) Hearts," I'd like to share an article that I found just a day or two after I last blogged. "Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health" by Kathleen Doheny appeared in the online edition of U.S. News & World Report as a response to the aforementioned research linking stressful marriage to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome in women. However, this version of the report included some info that the others conveniently omitted.

Specifically, the U.S. News article includes commentary from Dr. Debra Umberson of the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Umberson, who is also an expert on the health effects of marital stress, reveals that her research paints a different picture--one with a much darker palette for men: "'Basically, we find that marital strain undermines the health of men and women,' she says, adding that perhaps the men in [Nancy] Henry's study had their health influenced in a different way." (ital added)

According to her CV, Umberson has been publishing her work on the interaction between gender and marital conflict for several years now, yet I can't recall major media players jumping all over it in the way they did the recent University of Utah study. (Correct me if I'm wrong, please. Some of you may remember news stories that I'm forgetting.) Could it be that the American media is not as interested in publicizing how unhappy relationships affect men's health? If not, why not?

My initial thought was that with so many men defecting from traditional marriage bonds, conservative-slanted publications might be squelching any research that would further dissuade them from tying the knot. But then it occurred to me that we also live in a society that clings to certain preconceptions about gender roles which make it less acceptable for men to be emotionally invested in their relationships or to exhibit depression and other outward signs of distress over relationship conflict. Women's magazines remind us that relationships aren't central to a man's identity, that instead of moping by the phone and overanalyzing with friends, a guy lets his troubles roll off his back along with big drops of sweat at the gym. In effect, American women are taught that relationship failure will leave them on the verge of collapse, while men are taught that their hearts should take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. So the suppression of research proving that men aren't as invulnerable as we'd like to think fits the dominant cultural message about gender roles.

Whatever the reason that Umberson's findings were overlooked, Singletude is setting the record straight for readers here: Marital problems depress both women and men and may increase the likelihood that both sexes will develop health issues. Henry's research is not and surely will not be the final word.

Whew! Just had to get that off my chest. Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging!

Do you think more public attention is paid to research that reinforces gender stereotypes as opposed to research that disproves them? Can you think of any other reasons that Henry's study was so well publicized while Umberson's contradictory results were not? What do you think might explain the discrepancy between their conclusions? Have you noticed news sources applying selective reporting to singles issues as well?

Fun Link of the Day

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