Any guy who’s been told “Be a man” can tell you he has no idea what it means either. Should I be stronger? Should I be taller? Or should I just be hairier? A recent study led by Dr. Dennis Reidy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention has found that men who do not view themselves as masculine are more prone to violence and risky behaviors.

"This may suggest that substance use/abuse behaviors are less salient methods of demonstrating traditional masculinity in contrast to behaviors related to sex and violence, perhaps due to the potentially private nature of the habit," the research team said in a statement.

Reidy and his colleagues issued surveys to 600 American men regarding what it means to be a part of the male gender, how their own self-image falls in line with masculinity, and any risky behaviors. Survey respondents were between the ages of 18 to 50. Men between the ages of 18 and 44 are the largest male group in the U.S. and have the highest prevalence for injuries sustained through violence and risky behaviors.

The research team was hoping to measure the impact of “male discrepancy stress” — when men don’t see themselves as in line with traditional masculine gender norms and worry that other people feel the same way. Men who did not consider themselves masculine and experienced male discrepancy stress stood the highest risk for committing a violent assault with a weapon compared to men who did not feel masculine, but also did not care.

"These data suggest that efforts to reduce men's risk of behavior likely to result in injury should, in part, focus on the means by which masculine socialization and acceptance of gender norms may induce distress in boys and men," researchers added.

A similar study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington may show why men who don’t see themselves as masculine (or men in general) become violent. Results showed that men who feel their masculinity has been questioned tend to overcompensate. Men from the study who were told their grip was not strong enough compared to other men went on to either lie about their height, number of sexual partners, or claimed to be more aggressive and athletic.

Source: Reidy D, et al. Masculine discrepancy stress, substance use, assault and injury in a survey of US men. Injury Prevention. 2015.