LIFESTYLE
03/04/2018 13:37 SAST | Updated 03/04/2018 13:37 SAST

Men Suffer More Illnesses If Their Wives Earn More Than Them

"Some men believe a woman should never earn higher than them."

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Men whose female partners are the primary breadwinners in their families are more likely to suffer from conditions such as lung diseases, ulcers and heart disease later in life.

This is according to a study published in the Journal of Ageing and Health, in which nearly 2,000 couples were analysed over a period of 20 years between 1962 to 1991.

"We found strong evidence that wife-breadwinning is linked to husbands' physical health, where those who transition into this (breadwinning) arrangement early or late in life report significantly poorer physical health," said the researchers from Rutgers University in the U.S.

When the researchers examined specific health outcomes, they found that men to wives who became the primary breadwinners as early as their 20s and 30s were at elevated risk of heart problems, chronic lung disease and stomach ulcers.

These results are consistent with research demonstrating that the physiological wear and tear of a chronic strain, such as falling short of the male breadwinner ideal, can trigger physiological dysregulation and cardiometabolic health problems.

Meanwhile, in couples who transitioned to this arrangement later in life, there was an elevated risk of stomach ulcers and a marginally increased risk of hypertension.

"These results are consistent with research demonstrating that the physiological wear and tear of a chronic strain, such as falling short of the male breadwinner ideal, can trigger physiological dysregulation and cardiometabolic health problems," the study notes.

The study also noted that social stressors like masculinity threats also may affect physical health indirectly, via the pathways of emotional distress and unhealthy coping behaviours.

Clinical pyschologist Dr Eugene Viljoen believes that these findings are not too surprising. "A big part of a man's definition of masculinity largely involves their sexual prowess, but add to that their 'ability to provide for their family'," he previously told HuffPost.

"It's how men are socialised from a young age," pointed Viljoen, who added that this includes suggested male dominance in areas such as finances, sex and even emotions. "In fact, some men believe a woman should never earn higher than them," said Viljoen.

The researchers noted limitations of the study, which include not being able to discern the timing of onset or duration of health conditions, childhood health history which might impact on the conditions, and that they did not directly measure biological pathways through which wife-breadwinning might affect husbands' health