Men More Affected than Woman by Ups and Downs of Relationships

Guys have a harder time coping with relationship stress than women, study finds.

ByABC News
June 10, 2010, 1:04 PM

Jun. 11, 2010— -- Contrary to popular belief, men are more affected by a rocky relationship than their female counterparts, according to new research from Wake Forest University.

Research shows that women have a harder time coping with a breakup, but the guys are the ones who feel more stress and strain when the relationship hits a rough patch, researchers found. On the upside, men also get more of a psychological and emotional boost when the relationship is healthy.

"Common wisdom says that women are more hurt by problems in a relationship," says Robin Simon, lead researcher on the study and a sociologist at Wake Forest, "but we found that the benefits of support [in a relationship] and the disadvantages of strain are exaggerated for the men."

"Men are more sensitive than we often think they are," she says.

For the study, Simon and co-author Anne Barrett, associate professor of sociology at Florida State University, drew on mental health and relationship data from over a thousand college-aged youths in south Florida.

They found that while men often put forth a brave front in the face of a faltering romance, they were hurting emotionally more than the women were -- they just didn't show it in the same way.

While women tend to get depressed when they are hurt or upset, men express their distress through substance use or abuse, Simon says. In the study, the more relationship problems a guy had, the more likely he was to score high on substance abuse measures, including those that gauge emotional issues associated with drug dependence, she says.

These results may point to a societal shift in the way that young men today experience relationships, gender and relationship experts say.

"These boys are more likely to have experienced a divorce in their family," Simon says, "and this might make them more sensitive to the ups and downs of a relationship. They are more aware of the frailties of relationships than past generations."

The study was published in the June edition of the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.