Traditional masculinity and feminity are still standards for success even across most modern developed societies. These binaries restrict how we express ourselves, the ideals we strive for, and the conversations we find comfortable.
For men, expectations to be perpetually strong place immense pressure on the body. Erectile dysfunction, ageing skin, and hair loss are just a handful of examples of how this pressure manifests throughout the course of life. As if to exacerbate the issue, the stigma around vulnerability results in an appallingly limited discussion on men’s health.
We decided to tackle this taboo by conducting a comparative investigation into coverage on men and women’s health topics across popular magazines in major markets worldwide.
Women’s media dominates health topics. The number of articles published regarding health topics is, independently from the Region, always higher in women’s magazines.
The health topics chosen for this study were: sexual health, ageing skin, and hair loss. Across all three, coverage in women’s magazines was significantly greater than in men’s. The greatest disparity was found for ageing skin, with women’s magazines mentioning the condition 10 times more often than men’s. From the three topics, hair loss was the most mentioned topic overall across both genders, but still appeared three times as often in women’s magazines compared to men’s. Women’s outlets focused the least on sexual health topics, like vaginal dryness and libido; while men’s magazines offer little to no discussion on ageing skin.
The verdict is clear: health related topics are far more present in media outlets marketed at women than men.
While the female oriented magazines are addressing the topic of hair loss more frequently in the U.S. than in the U.K., we observed the opposite for the male oriented media, where the U.K. based outlets have published more articles around this topic than in the U.S.
Across both the UK and US magazine market, hair loss was the most frequently mentioned health topic. However, the discussion is monopolised by women’s magazines. This disparity was greatest in the US, with hair loss appearing three times as often in women’s magazines compared to men’s. For women, hair loss may be more widely reported in the US than the UK, but every major UK women’s magazine has more articles about hair loss than any other health topic researched in the study.
The biggest difference between the U.K. and the U.S. in dealing with health topics, can be observed by putting the number of sexual health articles in relation to each other. This shows that the U.S. based magazines publish far more articles about sexual regardless of the gender.
Sexual health topics gain far more coverage in US than UK magazines. US magazines include three times as many articles women’s sexual health issues, like vaginal dryness and libido, compared to the UK. Erectile dysfunction may be discussed more often in US magazines, but it has a more balanced coverage across publications in the UK. In terms of gender disparity, women’s magazines in the US discuss sexual health twice as often as men’s magazines; while in the UK, it’s three times as often.
The number of articles published about ageing skin is very evenly distributed between the U.S. and U.K, with only the male audience being addressed slightly more frequently in the U.K. than in the U.S.
In both markets, discussion on ageing skin is almost entirely focused on women. Coverage on the topic appears 10 times as frequently in women’s magazines than in men’s, and almost all widely circulated women’s magazines discuss or mention ageing skin, compared to a select handful of men’s. In men’s outlets, ageing skin is mentioned slightly more in the UK than in the US, whereas in women’s magazines, it’s the same across both markets.
In direct comparison it is clear that female media is publishing more articles on health topics. Moreover, hair loss is a more prominent topic in the U.K., while the U.S. is still dominating the conversation about sexual health.
In both the US and the UK, women’s health issues are discussed far more frequently than men’s. Sexual health has the most balanced coverage between the genders, but still has twice as much coverage in women’s magazines. In the US and the UK, the most popular health topic in men’s magazines is hair loss, but still has far less discussion than in women’s magazines. The gender disparity on coverage of health issues is slightly worse in the US than it is in the UK, despite the US having greater coverage on health issues overall.
The top 10 most popular magazines for men and for women in each market were identified according to circulation figures per issue. The research was conducted across English and German-speaking countries (UK, US, DACH, and global).
The research identified health concerns caused by stress and day-to-day-life (with a focus on hair, skin, and sexual health) and how symptoms differ between men and women.
For each magazine, the number of articles that included discussion or keywords on each health topic was identified using the domain of the publication, and online portals and search engines. The searches were filtered to include only articles published between the 01 January 2017 and the 01 March 2019.