Viewpoint: Addressing male burnout requires societal shifts

Research suggests burnout seems to manifest itself differently in men and women. Societal messaging about the role of men at work needs to change, Jonathan Malesic, PhD, a former theology professor at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., wrote in The New York Times on Jan. 4. 

Women tend to have higher rates of burnout than men, with female physicians at 32 percent more risk of burnout than their male counterparts, according to a national study published in 2019. However, the way it manifests itself across genders is different, with men seeming to be more vulnerable to its more detrimental effects, Malesic wrote. 

Burnout is defined by three dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism and a sense of ineffectiveness. One meta-analysis suggests that although women are more emotionally exhausted than men, men are more depersonalized and cynical. Regarding parental burnout, one study shows mothers have a higher average level of burnout, yet fathers are more likely to have extreme symptoms of burnout such as escape, suicidal ideation and child neglect. 

Male burnout, Dr. Malesic argued, is more hidden in the mainstream, with accounts of it a rarity. Men in general have more hesitation to discuss their problems and are 40 percent less likely than women to seek counseling, according to a 2019 study published by the CDC. 

Dr. Malesic wrote that many consequences of male burnout stem from societal messaging about the role of the traditional man as the stoic breadwinner. To end burnout culture, we should "commit to ideals of manhood that rely less on economic productivity and more on virtues like loyalty, solidarity and courage," he said. 

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