Smart Thinking

It’s time for a positive conversation about men’s mental health

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The co-author of The Harry's Masculinity Report 2017 on why its time we all opened-up

For the first time in history, British men value their mental health above their physical health. That was the amazing discovery we made in The Harry’s Masculinity Report 2017, which has just been completed by University College London. Are we finally seeing the death of the stiff upper lip?

Believe parts of the media, and you could be forgiven for thinking that when men have problems – suicide is now the biggest killer of men aged under 50 – it is our own fault. If only men talked more! Or manned up! If only men were more like women, they’d never have got into this terrible state!

Masculinity is ‘toxic’ or perpetually ‘in crisis’. From nuclear war to wolf-whistling, men create, and indeed are, problems. Yet few have ever taken the time to actually ask modern men what makes them tick.

That was the starting point for our report. Rather than focussing on masculinity’s much-documented problems, Harry’s, an American grooming company, flipped the telescope, and asked 2,023 British men aged between 18 and 85: ‘What core values do you aspire to? What makes you happy? What kind of man do you want to be?’

“Believe parts of the media, and you could be forgiven for thinking that when men have problems it is our own fault”

Harry’s founder Jeff Raider says: ‘We commissioned the study because we wanted to better understand British men rather than blindly making assumptions. The study means that we can speak to customers in a way that makes them feel they don’t have to be a stereotypical ‘alpha’ male to be successful.’

The great news is that British men are decent. They aspire to be honest (86 per cent considered this important or very important). Next, men want to be reliable (79 per cent important/very important) especially at work – by far the biggest underpinning trait of men’s positivity was job satisfaction. Here, autonomy – such as being a consultant or self-employed – was often associated with increased job satisfaction.

Men also value being in love. The more committed our relationships, the happier we are. Married men are happiest, while single men were the least happy of all, even more so than divorcees or widowers. When everything else is standardised, married men are a full 10 per cent happier than singles.

Men are rejecting shallow superficialities like the perfect body. Athleticism was deemed the least important core value, with only nine per cent ranking it as very important.

More good news is that men seem to get happier as they age, which is not only pertinent to millennials and the middle-aged, but also a powerful message to young men with mental health issues: ‘hang in there’.

I co-authored the survey with UCL’s Dr John Barry, chair of the Male Psychology Network, who says: ‘Our findings counter the fashionably negative view of men and masculinity as being toxic, which impacts how men are treated and feel about themselves. A more rounded view of men is needed and this survey helps to highlight that men embody and value many positive values’.

Above all, The Harry’s Masculinity Report shows British men are progressing. They are ready to talk. But are we ready to listen?

Martin Daubney is a former editor of Loaded and co-founder of the Men and Boy’s Coalition

What makes modern men tick?

The dignity of labour

Job satisfaction is by far the biggest determinant of men’s Positive Mental Index (PMI), with 86 per cent deeming it very important/important.

Men love being in love

Single men are the least happy of all men – even divorcees and widowers. Married men are the happiest of all.

Men mature, yes, like a fine wine

Men in their 20s scored a PMI of 3.3 (out of a maximum 5), which soars to 3.7 for the over-60s.