Allostatic load: wear and tear on the body, which accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress.
According to recent research, allostatic load comes into play if men buy into the paradigm that they should be the breadwinners. Those who hold traditional views about gender stereotypes are likely to have a higher allostatic load when they earned less than their wives.
The study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family and undertaken by Nancy Luke and Joeum Kim at the Pennsylvania State University, set out to investigate the association between men’s economic dependency during midlife, allostatic load, and how this relationship varies with men’s gender ideology.
In the United States, women are reported to be primary breadwinners in a third of heterosexual couples. Luke and Kim found no evidence of an association between men’s economic dependency and higher allostatic load, unless the male espoused more traditional gender attitudes. Those with the most egalitarian attitudes experienced lower allostatic load.
“Male breadwinning is one of the most rigid gender norms that shape men’s expectations, behaviours, and feelings,” study author Joeun Kim told psypost.org
The study analysed data on income, men’s health and ideologies about gender and compared these with the participants' allostatic load, derived from saliva, blood and urine samples.
“Debates over the shifting economic roles between men and women over the last few decades have mainly focused on conflicts between men and women. The findings of this study show that gender-flexible ideals (or non-gender essentialist ideals) could be beneficial for both men and women,” Kim said.
She also pointed out the study was limited to white middle-class men at midlife, and did not include men with different racial or socio economic characteristics, or men of different gender or sexual identities.
“Given the limitation of the data, we were unable to strictly identify causal relationships between men’s economic dependency, gender ideology, and allostatic load. We encourage future studies to address this methodological gap,” she said.
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