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How Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

Author: Alena Mokrzycki

In the context of improving your overall health, focusing on your mental health is an important component!

Focusing on eating habits and physical activity level are two common areas that people focus on when they want to improve their health. In addition to this, focusing on finding a way to handle stress can have a positive impact on a person’s health journey. We’ll explore what stress is, how men and women handle stress differently, common symptoms, and common coping strategies.

What is stress?

Stress can be defined in many different ways. Most commonly, stress is defined as your body’s response to pressure, and your body responds to this pressure on a physical, mental, and emotional level. While stress can be positive, most people’s experience of stress is associated with a feeling of overwhelm and/or difficulty time coping.

It’s important to note that the experience of stress can be caused by external or internal factors (also know as “stressors”). Examples of external stressors include your external environment (people, places, experiences, and more), while examples of internal stressors include your internal environment (thoughts, illness, medical conditions, and more!).

Differences in stress for men & women

The American Psychological Association identified some key differences in how men and women report their experience of stress and the causes:

  • Women are more likely than men (28% vs. 20%) to report having a great deal of stress (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale).
  • Almost half of all women (49%) surveyed said their stress has increased over the past five years, compared to 39% of men.
  • Women are more likely than men to report that money (79% vs. 73%) and the economy (68% vs. 61%) are sources of stress. Men are more likely than women to report that work is a source of stress (76% vs. 65%).

Symptoms of stress in men & women

According to the American Psychological Association, women are more likely to report physical symptoms associated with stress. Some examples of how men and women perceive their physical symptoms of stress differently include:

  • Irritability or anger: Men 45%, Women, 46%
  • Fatigue: Men 39%, Women, 43%
  • Lack of interest, motivation, or energy: Men 35%, Women 40%
  • Feeling nervous or anxious: Men 34%, Women 38%
  • Headache: Men 30%, Women 41%
  • Feeling depressed or sad: Men 30%, Women 38%
  • Feeling as though you could cry: Men 15%, Women 44%
  • Upset stomach or indigestion: Men 21%, Women 32%
  • Muscular tension: Men 22%, Women 24%
  • Change in appetite: Men 19%, Women 22%
  • Nothing: Men 28%, Women 19%

Coping with stress in men & women

The American Psychological Association has also found that both men and women often choose sedentary activities to manage their stress levels, compared to seeking a mental health professional or exercising. Examples of the most common coping activities include: reading, listening to music, and watching television. Some key differences highlighted include:

  • Women are more likely than men to read to manage stress (57% vs. 34%). Women also report using more stress management activities that connect them with other people such as spending time with friends or family (54% vs. 39%) and going to church or religious services (27% vs. 18%).
  • Men are more likely than women to play sports (16% vs. 4%) and listen to music (52% vs. 47%) to manage stress. Men also report more than women that they do nothing to manage their stress (9% vs. 4%).
  • Women are more likely than men to eat as a way of managing stress (31% vs. 21%). 
  • More women than men (35% vs. 24%) exercise only once a week or less. The main reason why they say they do not exercise more often when asked is due to being too tired (39% women vs. 26% men).
  • Men are more likely than women to say they exercise because it gives them something to do (34% vs. 23%), keeps them from getting sick (29% vs. 18%), and is something they are good at (19% vs. 11%).

While there are key differences in the way men and women report, experience, and cope with stress, we recognize that everyone’s experience of stress is truly unique and should be addressed accordingly.

If you’re looking for a unique understanding of your health and well-being, sign up for your Noom trial today!