Which Emotions Do Women Recognize Better Than Men?**

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Conventional wisdom and a litany of past research suggest that women have higher emotional intelligence than men. But is this really the case?

New research published in the academic journal Emotionexamined this topic in the context of emotion recognition. First, the research team asked both men and women to evaluate a series of photos. Each photo contained an individual expressing one of five basic emotions (anger, disgust, fearhappiness, or sadness). Participants were asked to identify the emotion each photo conveyed.

What did they find? For one, they note that some emotions are better recognized than others. Here is a rank order of the accuracy with which people identified the five emotions tested:

  1. Happiness (Most accurate)
  2. Fear
  3. Anger
  4. Sadness
  5. Disgust (Least accurate)

As for gender differences, the researchers found more parity than they expected. There was, for instance, no clear accuracy advantage for women, as might have been hypothesized. They did, however, show some interesting nuances:

  • Women were significantly better at identifying disgust and sadness.
  • Men were significantly better at identifying happiness.

Two follow-up studies replicated these results using slightly different methodologies.

What is to be made of these results? While conventional wisdom might have led one to expect bigger gender differences in emotion recognition, this research suggests that it might be time to recalibrate preconceived notions. The authors write:

“Why do our findings diverge from what might be thought of as conventional wisdom, i.e., that there is an overall sex difference in emotion recognition? One possible explanation is that of publication bias in this field. This account is supported by a recent meta-analysis of sex differences in emotion recognition ability that reported evidence for an excess of significant findings in the literature (Thompson & Voyer, 2014). For the field to move towards a consensus state, this suggests a need for strongly powered confirmatory studies with pre-registered experimental protocols.”

Even if past literature has overstated gender differences, as the researchers suggest, the current research still finds significant differences between the groups. These, they hypothesize, might best be explained through the lens of evolutionary theory. Because women are the child-bearing gender, they may have a heightened sensitivity to potential contaminants in their environment and might, therefore, be more likely to identify signals of disgust. Conversely, men may show less disgust sensitivity as a way to emphasize their strength and virility.

Whatever the reason, for your next cocktail party, perhaps let the women be the judge of what’s unappetizing and let the men decide who had a good time.

Why More Men Than Women Die By Suicide

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Six years ago my brother took his own life. He was 28 years old.

Tragically, suicide is not as rare as one might think. In 2016, the last year global data is available from the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 793,000 suicide deaths worldwide.Most were men.

In the UK, the male suicide rate is its lowest since 1981 – 15.5 deaths per 100,000. But suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. And a marked gender split remains. For UK women, the rate is a third of men’s: 4.9 suicides per 100,000.

It’s the same in many other countries. Compared to women, men are three times more likely to die by suicide in Australia, 3.5 times more likely in the US and more than four times more likely in Russia and Argentina. WHO’s data show that nearly 40% of countries have more than 15 suicide deaths per 100,000 men; only 1.5% show a rate that high for women.

The trend goes back a long way. “As long as we’ve been recording it, we’ve seen this disparity,” says psychologist Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice-president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a health organisation that supports those affected by suicide.

Suicide is a hugely sensitive, complex issue with a tangled multitude of causes – and the very nature of a death by suicide means we can never fully know the reasons behind it.

Still, as mental health awareness has grown, there is greater public understanding about potential contributing factors. One of the questions that has persisted, though, regards this gender gap. It seems especially large given that women tend to have higher rates of depression diagnoses.

Why are men struggling? (Credit: Getty)

Why are men struggling? (Credit: Getty)

Women also are even more likely than men to attempt suicide. In the US for example, adult women in the US reported a suicide attempt 1.2 times as often as men. But male suicide methods are often more violent, making them more likely to be completed before anyone can intervene. Access to means is a big contributing factor: in the US for example, six-in-10 gun owners are men – and firearms account for more than half of suicides.

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Men may also choose these methods because they’re more intent on completing the act. One study of more than 4,000 hospital patients who had engaged in self-harm found, for example, that the men had higher levels of suicidal intent than the women.

Why are men struggling – and what can be done about it?

Risk factors

One key element is communication. It’s too simplistic to say women are willing to share their problems and men tend to bottle them up. But it is true that, for generations, many societies have encouraged men to be “strong” and not admit they’re struggling.

It often starts in childhood. “We tell boys that ‘boys don’t cry’,” says Colman O’Driscoll, former executive director of operations and development at Lifeline, an Australian charity providing 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. “We condition boys from a very young age to not express emotion, because to express emotion is to be ‘weak’.”

Mara Grunau, executive director at the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Canada, points out it’s how we talk to our children and how we encourage them to communicate about themselves too: “Mothers talk way more to their girl children than their boy children… and they share and identify feelings” more, she says. “We almost expect women to be emotional.”

From a young age, we condition men to think that crying is a sign of weakness

From a young age, we condition men to think that crying is a sign of weakness (Credit: Getty)

But men may be less likely to admit when they feel vulnerable, whether to themselves, friends, or a GP. They also can be more reticent than women to see a doctor. A UK British Medical Journal study found general primary care consultation rates were 32% lower in men than women. (Consultation rates for depression, assessed by whether patients received antidepressant prescriptions, were 8% lower in men than women).

“Men seek help for mental health less often,” Harkavy-Friedman says. “It’s not that men don’t have the same issues as women – but they’re a little less likely to know they have whatever stresses or mental health conditions that are putting them at greater risk for suicide.”

Men seek help for mental issues less often (Credit: Getty)

Men seek help for mental issues less often (Credit: Getty)

If a person is not even cognisant they have a condition causing their distress, then they’re less aware anything could be done to help them. Only a third of people who take their own lives are in mental healthcare treatment at the time, says Harkavy-Friedman.

Dangerously, rather than seeking help through established channels, some men may attempt to “self-medicate”.

“There tends to be more substance use and alcohol use among males, which may just reflect the distress they’re feeling – but we know it compounds the issue of suicide,” says Harkavy-Friedman.

Indeed, men are nearly twice as likely as women to meet criteria for alcohol dependence. But drinking can deepen depression and increase impulsive behaviours and alcoholism is a known risk factor for suicide.

There tends to be more substance and alcohol use among men

There tends to be more substance and alcohol use among men, which can be a dangerous attempt to ‘self-medicate’ (Credit: Getty)

Other risk factors can be related to family or work. When there’s an economic downturn that results in increased unemployment, for example, there tends to be an associated increase in suicide – typically 18-24 months after the downturn. One 2015 study found that for every 1% increase in unemployment there is a 0.79% increase in the suicide rate.

Having to worry more about finances or trying to find a job can exacerbate mental health issues for anyone. But there are elements of social pressure and identity crisis, too. “We’re brought up our entire lives to judge ourselves in comparison with our peers and to be economically successful,” says Simon Gunning, the CEO of Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), a UK-based award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. “When there are economic factors we can’t control, it becomes very difficult.”

There can also be a spiralling effect. In the US, for example, health insurance often is linked to employment. If a person is being treated for depression or substance use, they may lose that care when they lose their job.

Another risk factor is a sense of isolation, as physician Thomas Joiner writes in his book Why people die by suicide. This can manifest itself in every walk of life. The outwardly successful professional who has prioritised career advancement to the detriment of all else, including social relationships, may find himself “at the top of the pyramid, alone,” says Grunau.

One potential risk factor is a sense of isolation (Credit: Getty)

One potential risk factor is a sense of isolation (Credit: Getty)

Of course, it is important to remember that while an external factor might precipitate suicidal behaviour in a person who’s already at risk, it’s never the sole cause.

“Millions of people lose their jobs, almost all of us have lost a relationship and we don’t end up dying by suicide,” says Harkavy-Friedman.

Possible solutions

There are no straightforward fixes for an issue this complex. But a number of programmes, policies and nonprofits are making inroads.

In Australia, for example, mental health and suicide prevention groups are trying to shift the cultural paradigm. One initiative that has gained traction is RU OK? day, which encourages people to support those struggling with life by starting a conversation. Another approach is the “shoulder-to-shoulder principle” – encouraging men to talk while otherwise occupied, like watching football or going for a bike ride. Mates in Construction, a training and support programme, raises awareness of high suicide rates in the industry and shows construction workers how they can help be part of the solution.

Overall, there’s an emphasis on “making it okay for men to talk about how they’re feeling – and for that to be acknowledged as a sign of strength”, says O’Driscoll.

In Australia, the programme Mates in Construction is raising awareness

In Australia, the programme Mates in Construction is raising awareness of the industry’s high suicide rates (Credit: Getty)

Technology is presenting new options too. Not everyone might want to unburden themselves to another person, even over a helpline. But artificial intelligence – such as chatbots – might allow a vulnerable person to communicate and get the help they need without fear of judgement.

Another strategy is to focus on the impact a suicide has on loved ones. Calm’s campaign Project 84 – so named to represent the 84 men who die weekly by suicide in the UK – stresses the devastation left behind. This can counteract the sense by some men that “it’s the ‘right’ thing to take themselves out of the equation”, Gunning says. He emphasises: “Staying is always an option.”

Staying is always an option (Credit: Getty)

Staying is always an option (Credit: Getty)

Other solutions have to do with simply making suicides more difficult to complete. After barriers were installed on the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol, England, for example, one study found that deaths from jumping the bridge halved – and there was no evidence that suicides from jumping from other sites in the area increased in response.

Still, more work obviously has to be done.

O’Driscoll compares how there’s often more attention paid to reducing road fatalities than to suicide prevention, despite suicide taking more lives. In Australia, for example, the overall suicide rate in 2015 was 12.6 per 100,000 – the highest rate in more than a decade –compared to 4.7 per 100,000 for road deaths.

More research is needed too. “Clearly,” says Harkavy-Friedman, “there are differences between women and men in our biology, our hormonal structure and the way our brains develop and function.” But men and women are often studied together, and despite attempts to statistically control for the differences, it is not enough. She believes we need to study men and women separately.

But there are positive signs. Harkavy-Friedman notes a huge change on the professional side, recalling at the beginning of her career it was hard to get a paper accepted on suicide because it was thought that you couldn’t prevent suicide, she says. Now, we know that to be wrong.

She also points to more government involvement than ever before. On World Mental Health Day in 2018, the UK government announced its first suicide prevention minister. “The UK has been ahead of the game, every step along the way,” she says, adding that she believes there has been a decrease in the UK suicide rate because a national strategy has been implemented.

The situation is getting better, but there is more work to be done (Credit: Getty)

The situation is getting better, but there is more work to be done (Credit: Getty)

For Grunau too, the situation is unquestionably getting better. “We are seeing momentum we’ve never seen,” she says. “You can actually talk about suicide and people still flinch, but they’re more willing to have the conversation.”

That has had positive effects, as the decline in UK suicides shows. Still, it’s not enough. Any life lost to suicide – whether male or female – is a life too many.

What Women Find The Most Attractive In Men, According To Science

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Straight men have pondered the answer to this not-so-simple question since the beginning of time: what do women want? The answer will not be found in a Mel Gibson rom-com, but it might be lurking in a research paper.

Science is doing its best to solve the age-old puzzle of the female brain. Scores of experiments have attempted to name things women find attractive in men, with varying degrees of success. The studies are often small, and rely on iffy self-reported feelings for results, but at worst they provide food for thought, and at best they offer real insight that could take you from dud to Don Juan.

Here are six science-backed traits that women find irresistible.

Good Looks, But Only Sometimes

Take the abs of Matthew McConaughey, the biceps of Chris Hemsworth, and the flowing locks of young Brad Pitt, and you have the perfect man – right? Physical attractiveness can be a factor, but it’s not as important as you might think. Study after study after study has confirmed that while women choose better looking guys for flings, they fall for other qualities for long-term relationships.

A Sense Of Humour

Ask a woman what she like in her partner and she’ll almost always say “He makes me laugh.” It’s not news that ladies love a man who can tickle their funny bone, but science helps explain why. One study found that a good sense of humour is sexually attractive because it reveals intelligence, creativity, and other ‘good genes’ or ‘good parent’ traits.

A Furry Friend

No, it’s not just a stereotype – women really do love men with dogs. Studies suggest that dogs facilitate social interaction between humans. Another experiment found that dog ownership can increase the long-term attractiveness of men, as it indicates the ability to nurture and suggests tendencies for relationship commitment.

Risk-Taking

Time to brush up on your CPR and sky-diving skills. A studyconfirmed the prediction that women would prefer physical risk-takers (brave, athletic, fit) over risk-avoiders as long-term mates, but only if the risk was taken during an altruistic act. Another experiment discovered that modern risks are considered unattractive for either sex, while risks that harken back to our hunter-gather history are attractive when undertaken by men.

Altruism

study published in The Journal of Social Psychology observed that both males and females significantly preferred altruistic mates for long-term relationships, and the size of this preference was greater than for other traits in mate choice. Women are especially likely to choose a mate based on his tendency for prosocial behaviour.

Wearing Red

Last but not least, one that doesn’t require a complete personality overhaul or the commitment of owning a pet: wearing red can make you more attractive to women, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. A man sporting the vibrant hue is perceived as better looking, more sexually desirable, and higher status.

Brain Drain? Women’s Brains Appear Younger Than Men’s, Study Finds

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By Doyle Rice

Talk about a brain drain.

new study suggests men’s brains appear to be older than women’s brains.

In terms of brain metabolism, the brain of a typical 30-year-old woman appears to be three to four years younger than the brain of a 30-year-old man, the study says.

This remains true throughout the adult life span and may be one clue as to why women often stay mentally sharp longer than men.

“Brain metabolism might help us understand some of the differences we see between men and women as they age,” said study lead author Manu Goyal, an assistant professor of radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study participants – 121 women and 84 men, ranging in age from 20 to 82 years – underwent PET scans to measure the flow of oxygen and glucose in their brains.

The findings suggest that gender affects brain aging and could contribute to stronger brain health and the ability to ward off disease later in life.

“It’s not that men’s brains age faster – they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life,” Goyal said. “What we don’t know is what it means.

“I think this could mean that the reason women don’t experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger,” he said, “and we’re currently working on a study to confirm that.”

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The finding is “great news for many women,” the University of Arizona’s Roberta Diaz Brinton told NPR. Brinton, who wasn’t connected with the study, said some women’s brains experience a dramatic metabolic decline around menopause, leaving them vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.

Brain aging is one of many differences between the sexes. “It is stronger than many sex differences that have been reported, but it’s nowhere near as big a difference as some sex differences, such as height,” Goyal said.

In a follow-up study, the research team is following a group of adults over time to see whether people with younger-looking brains are less likely to develop cognitive problems.

The study was published Monday in the peer-reviewed science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.