Brainstorm Health: Traditional Masculinity, Biochipping, Flu Update

January 11, 2019, 9:34 PM UTC

Happy Friday, readers!

I want to take a little break from the deluge of JPMorgan Healthcare conference news to explore a fascinating—and controversial—new development in the world of mental health.

The American Psychological Association (APA) earlier this week released extensive new guidelines meant to foster better mental health for boys and men. And a large part of their recommendations, based on four decades of research, are based on what the APA experts say can be a prominent source of stress, anxiety, and poor outcomes for males: The pressure to conform to normalized standards of “traditional masculinity.”

Just what does that encompass? “[A] particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence,” according to the report.

These guidelines have, perhaps unsurprisingly, rankled certain political factions who slammed the APA for ostensibly promoting a political agenda. Cable news talking heads and outlets such as the National Review sharply criticized the idea that “traditional masculinity” may prove unhealthy as a form of anti-male hysteria.

But APA officials defended the report and pushed back on critics who say it aims to punish boys for, well, being boys, noting that it was meant to address issues such as aggression, discrimination against young men who don’t conform to a set of normative characteristics, and the ensuing mental (and societal) harms.

“[B]oys and men are overrepresented in a variety of psychological and social problems. For example, boys are disproportionately represented among schoolchildren with learning difficulties (e.g., lower standardized test scores) and behavior problems (e.g., bullying, school suspensions, aggression,” wrote the authors.

“Likewise, men are overrepresented in prisons, are more likely than women to commit violent crimes, and are at greatest risk of being a victim of violent crime (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault). Despite these problems, many boys and men do not receive the help they need.”

The APA’s guidelines sit at the nexus of multiple complicated societal and public health questions. Regardless of one’s personal views, those questions are well worth considering.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.


The era of "biochipping." My colleague Vivienne Walt has an absolute must-read in the latest issue of Fortune on the culture of "biohacking"—including the extremely controversial practice of inserting microchips into one's own body. At this juncture, many firms and individuals focused on such technology are concentrated on biometric data collection; but some are biochipping entirely healty individuals with no ostensible medical purpose. Give the piece a read(Fortune)


Johnson & Johnson is hiking prices on two dozen drugs. So much for 2018's year of drug price hike slowdowns (a thing that, uh, didn't actually happen outside the realm of lofty press releases). Drug giant Johnson & Johnson joined fellow price hikers Pfizer, Biogen, Amgen, Allergan, and others in the trend, unveiling increased prices on some two dozen treatments (including major branded medicines like Stelara and Xarelto). While, as the inevitable disclaimer goes, list prices aren't the same thing as what's paid on net by patients, such hikes have drawn the ire of Congressional lawmakers and the Trump administration. (BioSpace)


Chamber of Commerce readies its anti-single payer artillery. As Medicare for All and single payer health care proposals gain traction among potential Democratic presidential contenders, the Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to fight back, hard. "We also have to respond to calls for government-run, single-payer health care, because it just doesn't work," said Chamber CEO Tom Donohue during his annual "State of American Business" address, according to The Hill(The Hill)

The flu has already sickened 7 million Americans. Between 6.2 million and 7.3 million Americans have already been sickened with the flu so far this influenza season, according to an update from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And than includes 83,500 hospitalizations due to the virus, says the agency. That's a slight improvement, to date, over last year's disastrous flu season; but the bulk of cases occur in February, so there's still a long way to go.


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Examining Facebook's Strengths and Blind Spotsby Aaron Pressman

5 Career Moves You'll (Probably) Make in 2019by Anne Fisher

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