When Mens Health Magazines can be Dangerous

Study examines health ideals portrayed in popular mens magazines

Study examines health ideals portrayed in popular mens magazines

Men are increasingly seeking health and well-being advice, this is apparent from the abundance of advice columns in mens health magazines.

With this in mind the level of expertise and health-ideals that are portrayed in the magazines should be of great health interest.

A study recently published in the Journal of Health Psychology aimed to analyse men’s help-seeking letters and expert replies within two international and popular men’s magazines. (Anstiss & Lyons, 2014)

The researchers specifically considered 2 magazines:

Men’s Health and For Him Magazine or FHM

The researchers considered Australian editions of the mens magazines and described the main focus of the magazines:

Australia’s FHM focusses on women, drinking, sport and humour, using images of women as its primary selling point

The Australian Men’s Health, based on the US edition, presents articles on health, fitness, nutrition, sexuality and lifestyle.

The authors identified 5 common themes across the 2 magazines:

  • Pain and injury
  • Fitness
  • General health
  • Psychological health
  • Nutrition

The study then identified discursive practices that were found across the 5 themes:

(1) using medico-scientific jargon

(2) demonstrating stoicism

(3) distancing the feminine

The authors found that the use of medico-scientific jargon to be beneficial:

Using medico-scientific jargon appeared to be an effective way for many men to communicate with experts. Letters written in general or vague terms, or where diagnosis via the Internet was evident, were met with reinterpretation, being rephrased in biomedical terms in the expert replies, reinforcing the imperative for help-seekers to engage with the medical world.

While the reinforcement of stoicism was found to be problematic and potentially dangerous:

This analysis suggests that men were frequently positioned as needing to be stoic, ignoring pain and discomfort and resisting displays of vulnerability. Some of the expert replies demonstrated insensitivity to issues and reprimands for suggesting the discontinuation of activities due to discomfort, reinforcing findings that many men struggle to get appropriate recognition of issues from experts.

Avoiding associations with aspects of femininity were positively reinforced through expert replies.

While the mens magazines analysed did prove beneficial to readers health and supported the acceptability of being health aware the magazines did reinforce particular discourses and discursive practices that could be seen as health damaging.