The long-held notion that young women are more vulnerable to emotional ups and downs than young men has been deemed mistaken in a new study.
In the study of more than 1,000 unmarried young adults between the ages of 18 and 23, Wake Forest Professor of Sociology Robin Simon has found that the ups and downs of romantic relationships have a greater effect on the mental health of men than women.
Even though men sometimes try to present a tough face, unhappy romances take a greater emotional toll on men than women, Simon said. They just express their distress differently than women.
"Our paper sheds light on the association between non-marital romantic relationships and emotional well-being among men and women on the threshold of adulthood. Surprisingly, we found young men are more reactive to the quality of ongoing relationships," Simon said.
That means the harmful stress of a rocky relationship is more closely associated with men's than women's mental health. The researchers also found that men get greater emotional benefits from the positive aspects of an ongoing romantic relationship.
This contradicts the stereotypic image of stoic men who are unaffected by what happens in their romantic relationships.
Simon suggests a possible explanation for the findings: For young men, their romantic partners are often their primary source of intimacy-in contrast to young women who are more likely to have close relationships with family and friends.
The research has been published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.