The psychology of men's health: a gendered
The psychology of men's health is in its infancy, but it has the potential to develop into a rich, dynamic and socially relevant research area with applications at all levels of intervention from clinical psychology to the development and assessment of equitable social policy. The thoughtful combination of quantitative and qualitative research, and the use of a range of theoretical and epistemological perspectives, has already led to the development of strong and dynamic streams of scholarship applied to men's health in other discipline areas (for example Connell 1995; Mac an Ghaill 1996). This book represents part of a similar development in psychology, that will over the next few years produce a psychology of men's health that views men in their social context, that understands their health as a complex, interactive and multiply determined phenomenon, and that recognizes the diversity of men's experiences.
One purpose of this book has been to present an argument for a particular perspective on men and their health: that of focusing on socially constructed concepts of gender and the impacts that these have on individual men's behavioural choices and thus on their health. This approach may be contrasted with a more traditional, reductionist and 'piecemeal' approach to men's health: the identification of specific, isolated topics to be investigated individually without attention to the social or cultural context. Diseases which occur only in men, such as prostate cancer, and those which — despite the evidence - are thought of as particularly male-typed, such as heart disease, have been identified as the central issues in understanding men's health (Fletcher 1997). However, such an approach derives from a specific perspective: one that focuses exclusively on the individual rather than his social context, that seeks to explain men's health at a biological level without taking any other level of explanation into account, and that has an emphasis on major illness and death, rather than on the well-being of men throughout their lives.