In North America, Medscape reports, on average, women live 5.3 years longer than men. As a wife, mother to one son and grandmother to 3 grandsons, I hope there is a solution to this discouraging fact. I wonder, Are there reasons women appear to build resilience easier than men?
Certainly, Pat O’Gorman, author of Dancing Backward in High Heels: How Women Master the Art of Resilience, thought women had a number of advantages. She says it in her Ginger Rogers inspired title! Yes, for hours, that turned into years, Ginger danced backwards with Fred Astaire.
Further to O’Gorman’s title here is information to consider:
Equal numbers of men and women can
- Have a similar mental health reaction to combat-related trauma. American Psychological Association, Journal of Abnormal Psychology
- Feel shame. Research by Brene’ Brown
- Experience depression. American National Institute of Health
- Women have a health advantage due to the protective factor of oestrogen, which protects against heart disease, while testosterone suppresses the immune system.
- Women tend to have stronger links connecting both sides of their brains, which support their emotional intelligence, intuition and ability to multi-task. Men tend to have connections within each side of their brains which support their logic, spatial awareness and coordination. Ragini Verma, National Academy of Sciences
- Women experience more psychological stress than men. Suzanne Petroni, International Center for Research on Women
Note: some people have argued that a number of these points are gender biased, meaning there exists societal stigma to act differently.
- Women tend to see their doctors more regularly, smoke less and drink less. Medscape Worldwide
- About 1 in 5 men and 1 in 12 women will have a problem with alcohol. World Health Organization
- Women are much more likely to seek help for their life stressors and problems. Two-thirds of those who seek therapy are women. American Psychological Association
- Women initiate divorce 62% of the time. US Stats
- Men follow through on the act of suicide three times more often than women. Centre for Suicide Prevention, Canadian Mental Health
Note: some people have argued that some of these points are hard-wired into our biology.
- Although not yet on an equal basis in North America, women have moved up the social ladder in matters of independence, earnings and status.
- More women struggle with a disproportionate amount of trauma from sexual violence, socio-economic disadvantage, low income and the responsibility of the care of others. World Health Organization
- Women tend to have deeper support and social networks than men. The Tending Instinct by Shelley Taylor
- Men often believe to be a man they need to act strong and powerful, to defend and fight, to stifle vulnerable feelings, and to avoid showing affection except during sex. The Secret Lives of Men and Women by, Christopher Blazina and Why Men Are The Way They Are by Warren Farrell.
- Women tend to be the nurturer and center of their household. They tend to carry more of the family emotional load. Professor Andy Scharlach, UC Berkeley, Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services
After considering these facts, here is how we might help strengthen the resilience of both men and women.
How to Help Men and Women Build Resilience
To Build Men’s Resilience Encourage Them to:
- Seek help for medical and psychological issues.
- Make social connections.
- Show care and concern.
- Listen to and share facts and feelings.
- Develop their emotional intelligence.
- Support women in their strength and power.
- Not help in the home, but partner the load.
To Build Women’s Resilience Encourage Them to:
- Begin to continue to care for themselves.
- Take less responsibility for others’ choices.
- Not get caught in personal conflict and let go of grudges
- Hear the feelings under the facts.
- Develop their logical thinking.
- Support men in their vulnerability and softness.
- Assert their rights of mutual-support.
The struggle to survive, connect, and thrive as men and women reminds me of the prose by Nancy R. Smith called For Every Woman written in 1973 during the feminist heyday. We are still seeking a time when men and women can live long, well and resiliently.
For every woman who strives to manage her stress, there is a man doing likewise.