Men Die Taking Risks. Is this really the natural way of things?

Men tend to put a lot of their self into earning their daily bread, CALM’s audit of masculinity showed a third of men felt that they would be seen as a less of a man should they lose their job.  Here at Year of the Male we have often said that unemployed men should be considered a group at risk for suicide. Being employed is not always a rosy experience however especially if you are one of the 2 men who die each week in work place accidents.

From 2009 to 2014 528 people lost their lives in work place accidents 510 of those where men. That works out as 97%. Similarly men are more almost twice as likely to suffer from a major injury because of an accident in the workplace.

The reason for this gap appears to be that more men work in risky jobs. For example in the US only 9% of construction workers are female making them much less likely to fall off the side off the building they are, well, building.

There has been a consistent argument that men are more willing to take risks. There is, I’m afraid to say, some evidence for this. About 89% of the winners of the Darwin Awards are male. These are awards given out to people who die in incredibly stupid ways and so are rewarded for taking themselves out of the gene pool.

It has been argued that men being willing to take more risks is the natural way of things. Hunter-gather man had to go out at catch his family’s food whilst women stayed behind to look after the kids. It’s easy to see how one role benefits from taking more risk and the other less. This would make the 20 times as many men dying in work place accidents an unfortunate but natural part of life.

That’s what conventional wisdom says but then conventional wisdom has long been killing people because we didn’t know any better.

I look at the trends around some risk taking for example putting yourself in a state where you don’t know where you are, what you are doing or how to get home: In other words binge drinking. This is a risky area in which men still partake more often but women have been making headlines for making inroads into our... lead?

This makes me wonder if men are naturally more likely to take risks or if it’s something to do with the expectations men feel like they are under to act in a certain masculine way.

Fortunately I’m not the first to question this: one study, reported on by the BPS, tried to make men insecure about their manhood. Well, half of the men were given a hand drill to play with the other half got to test some pink “Sweet Pea” hand lotion. Both groups where then asked to bet on dice rolls. Turns out using pink hand lotion will make men bet bigger and take more risks, something to consider when you are in the soap aisle. Check out that BPS link where they also cover a study with better science but less entertaining to read about that reaches the same conclusion.

Having your masculinity challenged makes you more likely to take more risks which brings me back to those construction workers taking risks that cost them there lives and to those idiotic men winning their Darwin Awards. The idea that it’s a natural way of being for men to take bigger risks more often makes it an easy problem to ignore. However if it is as a result in how we teach men they need to behave to “be a man” then people are dying and we are turning a blind eye.

Photo by Byran Ledgard originally found on Flickr used under creative commons licence.