Action and Control: Men’s Narrative Accounts of Coping Across the Life Course
1University of Westminster, United Kingdom
2University of Queensland, Australia
3Deakin University, Australia
Background: Men are often portrayed as poor at managing their emotional health, but research is starting to explore ways in which men constructively engage with their wellbeing. This study aimed to explore men’s narratives of coping across the life course as part of a larger project looking at successful ageing. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 40 older men (50-90 yrs), purposively sampled from Australia and the UK. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: Men’s strategies of coping across the life course were characterised by action and control. In childhood, coping tended to be passive as men lacked the agency to confront difficulties or find effective solutions. By adulthood men predominately described ‘taking action’ to cope with struggle and distress. Conversely, ‘go with the flow’ reflected a shift away from notions of taking control, with more men adopting this attitude in older age. Men’s accounts of ’positivity’ also appeared to privilege attitude above action. There were tendencies towards community (voluntary work) and constructive physical practices (yoga) in later life. Discussion: These findings highlight ways in which men's wellbeing is organised through age-relations and particularly sense of control. With age, some men shifted away from action-orientated approaches whilst others sustained control through a variety of strategies.