“Standing out from the herd”: men renegotiating masculinity in relation to their experience of illness

Rosaleen O'Brien, Graham J. Hart , Kate Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this paper we investigate whether a mental illness (i.e., depression) presents
different challenges to masculinity than those experienced in relation to a
stereotypically male disease (i.e., coronary heart disease [CHD]) and a gender-
specific disease (i.e., prostate cancer). Fifty-nine men from central Scotland
participated in 15 focus groups, and nine took part in individual interviews between June 1999 and February 2001. We found that masculinity is negotiated and re-negotiated by men in the light of the limitations placed on them by their own and others’ understandings of the social and personal consequences of these diseases. Participants with depression believed that if their mental illness was made visible to others it would distinguish them from other men with less “feminized” illnesses or injury. There remains a taboo for men reflected in the absence of discussion of this issue between them in disclosing and help-seeking with regard to depressive illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-200
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Men's Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007



  • masculinities
  • gender
  • chronic illness
  • qualitative study

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