Men's accounts of health and illness: the relationship between masculinities and health

Rosaleen O'Brien

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis presents men’s discussions and experiences of health and illness and its relation to, and implications for, the practices of masculinity amongst a diversity of men. Fifty five men participated in fourteen semi-structured focus group interviews. Diversity in men’s experiences of health and illness and in their constructions of masculinity was sought within the sample by age (range 15-72 years), occupational status, socio-economic background and current health status. Groups of men were recruited who had had ‘everyday’ or unremarkable experiences of masculinity and health and groups of men with health experiences that could have prompted reflection on masculinity and health. This included groups with men who had prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, mental health problems, and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). All of the men that participated in the study lived in central Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Lanarkshire and Perthshire) and just one group was conducted with men of Asian origin, which reflects the limited ethnic diversity in this part of Britain. The first data chapter examines participants’ descriptions of their masculinity and their health-related beliefs and behaviours. The data capture both the experiences of men who felt pressured to engage in behaviours that may be harmful to their health in order to appear masculine and the accounts of those who regarded themselves as freer to embrace salutogenic health practices as they perceived there to be fewer consequences for their masculinities. These considerations are then followed by an examination of how participants re-negotiated male identity in the light of illness. The final data chapter presents participants’ discussions and experiences of help seeking and its relation to the practice of masculinity. The data suggests a widespread endorsement of a ‘hegemonic’ view that men ‘should’ be reluctant to seek help, particularly amongst younger men.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Glasgow
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • men's health
  • masculinity
  • interviews
  • Central Scotland


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