Men: Health and Mental Health Care


masculinity, mental health, social work


Little scholarship in social work has focused on the unique physical and mental health care needs of men. This may be the result of social work’s focus on marginalized and oppressed populations, while many men enjoy a highly privileged position within society. To be sure, social work has addressed issues that disproportionately affect males, such as imprisonment and military service, and some male populations, such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and racial/ethnic minority groups. Despite their privileged gender position, men, on average, die five years earlier than women, are more likely to abuse alcohol, illegal drugs, and other substances, and engage in risky behavior more frequently. This is significant, given the relatively high prevalence of mental health issues in men. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 10–12 percent of men will have a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Other mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, are equally prevalent among men and women. Problematically, however, men seek help for mental health issues far less frequently than women—leading to high levels of undiagnosed and untreated mental health problems. Men are often unwilling to get help for their problems because of hegemonic masculine norms that value self-sufficiency, stoicism, strength, and social detachment. Compounding these problems are professional issues, including unfamiliarity with masculine depressive symptoms, diagnostic bias, and lack of male-sensitive social services.

Original Publication Citation

Shafer, K. (2016). “Men: Health & Mental Health Care.” In Mullen, E.J. (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Social Work. New York: Oxford University Press.

Document Type


Publication Date


Permanent URL


Oxford Bibliographies




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor