Do men cry more as they age?
My observation is that men cry more as they age, and I think it is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find much research about it, but everything I’ve read online about the issue of crying confirms that women cry five times more often than men.
Most researchers point to the same causes, such as hormonal differences and cultural upbringing. Tear production is about the same for boys and girls up to the age of eleven, then the boy’s tears shut down.
Ad Vingerhoets, a clinical psychologist at Tilburg University and the author of “Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the Mysteries of Tears,” is one of the few researchers currently studying emotional tears, those triggered by feelings rather than, say, onions or other irritants. He says that another unique physiological aspect of males is their tear ducts are larger and less likely to spill over.
But, of course, tears are just one symptom of emotion. First comes the tightening in the throat that makes it difficult to speak, and the awkward breathing that follows, sometimes called sobbing. The crystal tears that spill over the lower eyelid are the pretty part. The screwed-up facial expressions and the inability to speak are another story.
But back to my observations that, as men age, they cry more. Obviously, it might be due to a reduction in testosterone, which actually inhibits tears. Men receiving treatments for prostate cancer that lower testosterone are known to cry more.
The childhood admonishment to be a big boy and stop crying has hopefully gone by the wayside and is seen as a detriment to healthy adulthood. Maybe men’s tear ducts shrink. As men age, I would like to think that they become more comfortable with their feelings and are willing to let them flow. There are many reasons the average lifespan for women is longer than men’s, and healthy crying might be one of them.
In other parts of the world, group-crying is a new phenomenon. People gather in sessions where they watch sad movies or look at heartbreaking photographs which induce sadness. Then, people can cry together within a safe environment and let their emotions flow. You might think this would create a sense of depression, but it can trigger a release of oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone associated with social bonding. The result is an amazing elevation of mood, and it works for men and women!
Leonardo da Vinci said it succinctly, “Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.” So perhaps the beauty of old age is to live from the heart more often.
Find Connie’s book, “Daily Cures: Wisdom for Healthy Aging,” at www.justnowoldenough.com.