My father has always been a crier. The Jim Carrey version How the Grinch Stole Christmas is enough to do it for him. My boyfriend’s eyes water, too — recently, I caught him shedding a tear in awe of the big spaceships in Dune. So, it’s not really a surprise to me that, despite persisting cultural norms about men and emotions, a recent survey has found that men do, in fact, cry — maybe even more often than women.
A recent OnePoll survey of 2,004 Americans on mental health and the stigma surrounding it asked participants how frequently they cry. Male participants reported shedding a tear an average of four times a month, while women reported three monthly sobs. Two-thirds of men reported seeking mental-health treatment, too, compared to half of women. Despite this, men’s rates of feeling shame and embarrassment around getting help were more than twice that of women. As far as I can tell, this is the first data set to find that men cry more than women.
I’m not sold, though. The survey didn’t reveal the precise gender divide of its participants, nor did its press release reveal exactly how the survey was conducted. The data was also collected specifically for the telehealth company Vida Health, so it’s quite possible that the data was skewed — if they were surveying their own clients, it’s likely that they included people who were already interested in seeking mental-health treatment, which may not be representative of the general population. (One Poll didn’t immediately respond for comment.)
That said, there’s plenty of other evidence to suggest that men cry regularly, even as stereotypes about emotion and masculinity remain. According to a 2017 article published by the American Psychological Association, a study of 7,000 adults from 37 different countries found that men generally report crying 5 to 17 times per year, compared to 30 to 64 times for women. Meanwhile, there are numerous Reddit threads of men discussing how often they cry, with answers generally split between two camps: Guys who say they only cry two or three times a year or less, and guys who cry several times a month and feel strange about it.
“I cried a little when I found out that one of my best friends died,” one guy wrote. “That was about four years ago. I don’t cry all that often. I know that around Reddit, men are often encouraged to let all their emotions out and cry, but I fucking hate it when I cry… There’s nothing I hate more on this earth than feeling like I’ve lost control, or that I’m weak.”
“Most people here say years, and I feel like such a wuss,” wrote another. “I cry more often than I would like to admit.”
There’s been increasing visibility of men crying on TV, film and other forms of pop culture, too. A 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that people tend to view men crying in stereotypically masculine settings such as competitive sports to be “appropriate.” Clint Eastwood, certainly an archetypal masculine man himself, cries in a significant portion of his films, and even Captain America cries in Avengers: Endgame.
There’s certainly no reason to cry daily or force an emotion you’re not feeling, but there are legitimate benefits to crying. The primary, of course, is the sense of release and catharsis that helps us properly process whatever it is we’re crying about. But according to Harvard Medical School’s health blog, not letting yourself cry when you need to can lead to poor immune and cardiovascular health, as well as worsen stress, depression and anxiety.
Basically, if you’re in the camp of crying a few times a month, even if it’s just over a commercial on TV, there’s nothing to feel weird about. If it feels like too much or you’re not even sure why you’re crying, there’s nothing weird about seeking professional help, either. The point is, men do cry. I don’t know how many of them shed a tear at Dune, but hey, man — if that’s you, let it out.