Connecting humor, health, and masculinities at prostate cancer support groups

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Objective:Many commentaries about men's health practices and masculinities indicate that men do not typically engage with self-health or acknowledge illness, let alone openly discuss their health concerns with other men. Prostate cancer support groups (PCSGs) appear to run contrary to such ideals, yet the factors that influence men's attendance and engagement at group meetings are poorly understood. As part of a larger PCSG study, we noticed that humor was central to many group interactions and this prompted us to examine the connections between humor, health, and masculinities.Methods:A qualitative ethnographic design was used to direct fieldwork and conduct participant observations at the meetings of 16 PCSGs in British Columbia, Canada. Individual semi-structured interviews were completed with 54 men who attended PCSGs to better understand their perceptions about the use of humor at group meetings.Results:Four themes,disarming stoicism, marking the boundaries, rekindling and reformulating men's sexuality, andwhen humor goes southwere drawn from the analyses. Overall, humor was used to promote inclusiveness, mark the boundaries for providing and receiving mutual help, and develop masculine group norms around men's sexuality. Although there were many benefits to humor there were also some instances when well-intended banter caused discomfort for attendees.Conclusions:The importance of group leadership was central to preserving the benefits of humor, and the specificities of how humor is used at PCSGs may provide direction for clinical practice and the design of future community-based men's health promotion programs. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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