“These types of groups can be healthy and helpful for men and women,” said Chris Liang, a licensed psychologist and associate professor of counseling psychology at Lehigh University.
Liang researches the effect of masculinity on health and was part of a board that helped the American Psychological Association (APA) formulate new guidelines on working with boys and men.
The guidelines highlight ways in which traditional views of masculinity — such as men are tough and never cry — harm their emotional and physical health. Studies show that men who strongly believe in masculine norms are less likely to get preventive health care, more likely to drink heavily and use tobacco, and more likely to hold negative attitudes toward seeking mental-health services.
Many men never learn healthy ways to deal with stress, Liang said. Then, it can emerge in harmful ways.
According to the APA, men commit 90 percent of homicides in the U.S. and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re also more than three times as likely as women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is nearly five years shorter, largely because of both violence and the health impact of stress.
Liang hopes that such groups as the cuddling meet-up can help men move beyond one restrictive definition of masculinity. Although those with more serious concerns may want to seek therapy, he said, “if this is something that’s more comfortable for men ... then it can do a whole lot of good.”