How Stress Differs Between Men & Women: Stress is the body’s response to physical, mental, and emotional challenges. Stress is very common among both men and women, with 75 percent of adults experiencing moderate to severe stress at least once in the past month.
Common symptoms of stress include anxiety, depression, and headaches, however symptoms vary among people as there are many factors involved. Chronic stress is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer,” as the effects can cause a handful of emotional and physical complications, which can lead to serious health concerns and even death.
Studies have shown a significant difference in stress among men and women. Here are four ways that stress differs between men and women:
How Stress Differs Between Men & Women - #1: Hormones
Hormones are responsible for many differences in men and women, including how they react to stress. Cortisol and epinephrine cause a spike in a person’s blood pressure and circulating blood sugar level, while cortisol lowers a person’s immune system. A hormone called oxytocin also comes into play in times of stress. While both men and women produce oxytocin, women produce much more than men. The hormone promotes nurturing and relaxing emotions, which gives women an advantage over men when faced with stress.
How Stress Differs Between Men & Women - #2: Sources of Stress
Work-related stress is more common in men than in women (75 percent versus 65 percent, respectively). According to psychologist Carl Pickhardt, PhD, “Men tend to let their rival's efforts or their employer's agenda set the level of their demand, losing focus on the self to preoccupation with winning or attaining an extrinsic objective.” Pickhardt elaborates, "Achieving a winning performance at all costs is how many men enter stress.” On the other hand, “Self sacrifice in relationships is how many women enter stress.” According to the American Phycological Association (APA), women also report money and the economy as sources of stress.
How Stress Differs Between Men & Women- #3: Fight or Flight vs. Tending and Befriending
Fight or flight is the body’s reaction to situations that pose a threat to survival. In stressful situations, people either confront the situation at hand (fight) or bottle up their emotions (flight). In July 2000, a study published by Psychological Review suggests that women deal with stress by “tending and befriending,” rather than fight or flight. According to Shelly E. Taylor, PhD, a psychology professor of UCLA, “tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.”
How Stress Differs Between Men & Women - #4: Stress Management
Because men and women react to stress differently, it comes as no surprise that they manage their stress in different ways. According to Pickhardt, “Women often seek support to talk out the emotional experience, to process what is happening and what might be done.” Women may reach out to family, friends, or even a support group to share their stories of stress in an effort to resolve the situation at hand. On the other hand, “Men often seek an escape activity to get relief from stress, to create a relaxing diversion, to get away,” notes Pickhardt. Sports such as golf may provide temporary relief, but is not an effective way to provide long term stress management.