Does Having More Men Stress a Society?

Being around men increases stress. Do countries with more man than women have higher stress levels?

In my last post, I promised to answer this question. But it’s a harder question than it seems. How do you measure a country’s level of stress? Some organizations, such as Gallup, do an excellent job surveying people around the world. I don’t work at Gallup, nor do I have access to their data. So I had to do the best I could.

First, I gathered country gender composition data from our friends at the World Bank. I separated countries according to whether they had a majority of male or female citizens. The average was 50.77% women (standard deviation 1.19; Minimum: 48.19%, Maximum: 54.30%). Of the 74 countries for which data were available, 19 were male-majority and 55 were female-majority.

Next, I searched for a good, comprehensive measure of country-level stress. Bloomberg made things easy. They computed a country’s stress score by combining seven factors:

  • Annual Homicide Rate per 100,000
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita
  • Income inequality (Gini coefficient)
  • Corruption (as measured by Transparency International)
  • Unemployment rate
  • Urban air pollution (micrograms per cubic meter)
  • Life expectancy (years at birth)

Finally, I compared country-level stress between male-majority and female-majority countries. This would give me an initial answer to my question. What were the results?

Countries with more men than women, compared to their female-majority counterparts, had higher levels of stress.


Three factors drove the effect: corruption, pollution, and life expectancy. In each case, more men than women equaled a more corrupt, polluted, and shorter lived society. A close fourth, which wasn’t quite statistically significant (p= .063), was Gross Domestic Product per capita. If a country had a male majority (vs. female majority), GDP was lower.

These findings offer a novel extension to the finding that being around men, versus women, increases rodent stress. But unlike those careful laboratory experiments, people weren’t randomly assigned to live in male- or female-majority countries. We can’t infer cause and effect. All we can conclude is that when men are present, stress seems to rise instead of fall.