Biologically, men and women are very different. There are major hormonal and biological differences at play when it comes to men and women handling stress. On top of gender, people, in general, all handle stress in different ways. Money worries, family issues, job pressure, health issues, and major life changes are among the top triggers for stress and can happen to anyone.
Studies have shown that men and women report different physical and mental reactions to stress. They also have different strategies to manage stress and perceive their ability to do so in different ways. Below are a few interesting facts about how differently stress affects both men and women. But first, a refresher.
What is Stress? How does It Apply to Men and Women?
Stress is a person’s physical or emotional response to the demands and pressures of daily life. There are many common causes of stress, like money, careers, and family issues. Stress usually occurs when we feel overwhelmed or in a situation we may not be able to control.
As mentioned previously, studies have shown that men and women manage stress differently. Even stress triggers are different between men and women. Women have reported that money and the economy are top sources of stress, while men are far more likely to report their jobs as a source of stress. Women are also more likely to report physical and emotional symptoms when dealing with stress, such as headaches, crying, or stomach pains. These kinds of differences may vary depending on the person. However, there are distinct differences between men and women. But why?
Men vs Women with Stress
One of the most important reasons men and women react differently to stress is hormones. When stressed, three important hormones are released: epinephrine, cortisol, and oxytocin. Oxytocin counters the production of the other two hormones and promotes nurturing and relaxing emotions. Both men and women secrete all three hormones when stressed, however, women release more oxytocin than men, which is why stress affects them differently.
The management of demand and the maintenance of energy is another big difference between genders when it comes to stress. Women’s self-esteem is centered around the adequacy of relationships, while men’s self-esteem is centered around the adequacy of performance. Where women are more likely to self-sacrifice in relationships (self-maintenance), men are more likely to let competition and challenges set the tone (overdemand). This is how both genders are triggered by stress.
When it comes to coping with stress, women tend to be more emotion-focused, while men tend to be more problem-focused. Emotion-focused coping is a stress management strategy aimed at changing emotional responses to stressors, like reducing fear, embarrassment, or anxiety. Problem-focused coping is a stress management strategy that involves a behavioral or cognitive effort to get rid of the stressor. It sees the stressor as a problem to be solved rather than accepting the stressor at hand.
Ultimately, stress is a part of everyone’s life, but too much stress can have a serious impact on your mental and physical well-being. Being able to cope effectively with your daily stress is crucial to living a better, healthier life, regardless of your gender.
Source: Brunilda Nazario (2005) How Men and Women Handle Stress Differently
Source: American Phycological Association (2012) 2010 gender and Stress
Source: EX Care Clinic (2021) Why Do Men and Women Handle Stress Differently