On the Disappearance of Male Menopause

WatkinsIn the latest issue of Social History of Medicine, 21(2), Elizabeth Siegel Watkins explores why “male menopause” vanished from medical discourse in the 1950s.

This disappearance offers an interesting case study of how and why diagnoses and therapies fall in and out of favour. For this particular set of symptoms, psychiatry replaced endocrinology as the explanatory framework, and tranquilisers replaced hormones as the preferred therapy. But medical fashion was not the only factor determining diagnosis and treatment. In the 1950s, when the dominant model of masculinity clearly differentiated men from women, male patients and their male physicians alike balked at the idea that men could suffer from what seemed like a woman’s problem, namely, menopause. The diagnosis of a stress-induced condition fitted better with the image of the hardworking breadwinning male, especially among middle-aged men who might also have worried about becoming superannuated. Cultural conceptions of masculinity and ageing figured significantly in the framing of this condition. (Free PDF here.)

This article builds on Watkins’ previous work on the continued popularity of “male menopause” as a folk psychological notion despite its disappearance from the medical literature. (Free PDF here.)

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About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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