Men are likely to joke and laugh their way through being ill

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When it comes to discussing the serious things in life, like being ill, men are likely to joke and laugh their way through it according to new research launched today at the British Pharmaceutical Conference.

Research conducted by the Welsh School of Pharmacy in Cardiff looked at how men interacted when they discussed health issues such as their use of pharmacies and various illnesses, including headaches, stomach upsets and testicular cancer.

Detailed analysis of the focus groups found that humour was used in a number of ways to illustrate or reinforce points made during the discussion. For example, ‘oneliners’ using sarcasm and teasing were used when discussing causes and management of a range of illnesses and ailments such as headache, low mood, stomach upset and testicular cancer. Examples of men’s ‘humour’ are:

Man 1 on headaches:
A: I’ve never had a migraine
B: No nor have I
A: I’ve never had a headache
B: I’m not surprised a head like that [General laughter]

Man 2 on being in a ‘low’ mood:
A: Yeah we all skive off work (sic). I mean it’s a bit of an odd one isn’t it because it’s associated with negative stuff quite often. You know, I got up this morning, I don’t want to go to work today… and my wife physically pushes me out of the door.
B: In your pyjamas?
A: I’m fine once I get to work (sic).
B: Did you try to explain it was Saturday?

Man 3 on having an upset stomach:
A: Have you eaten anything dodgy is the first thing I’d ask myself. I would also recommend maybe going to the lavatory as well. Take a good book [General laughter]
B: Maybe some Alka Seltzer or something
A: Yeah milk’s good
B: Glass of hot water’s meant to be quite good for the stomach. Apparently.
A: Doner kebab [General laughter]

Researcher Dr Dai John said that the research supports conclusions from earlier studies that men use disparagement, joking and other types of humour1,2 to discuss personal or sensitive issues with each other that otherwise could be difficult to deal with.

“Men are notorious for sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to talking about health issues and treating ill health,” he said. “However, this research indicates that men in pre-existing social groups, when they talk about health and illness with each other, are more comfortable communicating their views, experiences and suggestions through the use of jokes and humour.”

Dr John said that the research has implications for the way health professionals communicate with men. “As health professionals, pharmacists are always aware of communicating with people in a useful, empathic and relevant way. The use of humour could be very useful when directing health messages to men.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) is the regulatory and professional body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales. The primary objective of the RPSGB is to lead, regulate and develop the pharmacy profession.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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