A survey by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan has cast new light on the changing role of men as ‘tough-guys’.
The surprising figures have been revealed today to launch the charity’s March of the Men campaign, which aims to get more young men signing up as stem cell donors.
When both men and women were asked what words they most associate with being a ‘real man’, a resounding two-thirds (66%) of respondents in the YouGov survey chose the word ‘caring’. This came out far ahead of more traditionally masculine qualities such as ‘tough’ (22%), ‘successful’ (26%) or ‘alpha-male’ (10%). 
There also may be a further shift in perceptions as four out of ten respondents believed that real men show their emotions while 5% said that they don’t.
Interestingly, the only group of those polled for whom ‘caring’ wasn’t the top answer was the ‘millennial’ cohort of 16-30 year old men, who said that ‘brave’ was the word they most associated with being a ‘real man’ (54% compared to 52% who said ‘caring’).
More than a third of young men (36%) also linked being a ‘real man’ with being ‘successful’, compared to 26% of the total population – men and women – indicating that there is still a lot of pressure on young men in 2016.
The blood cancer charity hopes the insights into modern masculinity will help it get to the bottom of why there may be a shortage of young male stem cell donors.
Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “This survey proves we can’t make assumptions about men and how they are perceived in the 21st century. The fact that both sexes believe a real man is ‘caring’ above all else is heartening as we try to recruit more male stem cell donors.
“Being a man in 2016 clearly means different things to different people and we should celebrate this diversity. No matter what kind of man you are, simply being a man means you could be a lifeline for someone with blood cancer.”
Someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every 20 minutes. For many of these people, a stem cell transplant from a donor on the Anthony Nolan register is their last chance of life. The problem is, not enough men are signing up to the Anthony Nolan register.
Men aged 16-30 are by far the most in demand as stem cell donors, and are 3.5 times more likely than average to donate once they join the register – but worryingly, they make up only 15% of the register..
When men aged 16-30 year old who are not currently registered as stem cell donors were asked what would discourage them from signing up to the register, the top answers included ‘I’m scared that donating is painful’ (34%), ‘I don’t know anything about it’ (22%) and ‘I’m squeamish about needles and/or hospitals’ (27%). This is despite their linking the word ‘brave’ most strongly with being a ‘real man’.
Even the top reason for people to sign up, ‘If a friend or family member needed a transplant’, was worryingly a motivation for just a third (34 per cent) of all GB adults who are not currently registered as stem cell donors.
Henny Braund explained: “Sadly the numbers clearly don’t add up and we desperately need more young men to join the register.
“There are so many myths that surround stem cell donation. It isn’t necessarily about being ‘brave’, as the process is so straightforward. All you have to do is fill out a simple form and provide a saliva sample. If you are a match for someone, 90% of the time the process is similar to giving blood.”
Ray Lucas, 22, from Northampton, who donated his stem cells in April last year, said, “I signed up to the register at a Race for Life event, I was dressed up as Clarence the Dragon, Northampton Town’s football mascot and I came over to the Anthony Nolan tent. It was a no-brainer to sign up, all I had to do was give a bit of spit, I didn’t think anything would come of it. It was a hot day inside the costume and, when I took the mascot head off, it took me ages to spit, but thank god I did – I came up as a match for someone a year later.
“Everyone always says to me, you’ve changed someone’s life, but it’s changed mine too. I didn’t want my story to end after the donation, I want to help campaign and sign up more young men to the register – they just don’t realise how easy it is.”
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,304 GB adults, of which 345 were males aged 16-30. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10 – 11th February 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 16+).
 66% of GB adults said that the word ‘caring’ is a word they personally think applies to being a ‘real man’, 22% said ‘tough’ ‘successful’ (26%) or ‘alpha-male’ (10%).
 40% of GB adults said that ‘Shows emotion’ is a phrase they think applies to being a ‘real man’ and 5% said the phrase ‘Doesn’t show emotions’ applies to being a ‘real man’
 54% of GB men aged 16-30 said that the word ‘Brave’ is a word they personally think applies to being a ‘real man’
 36% of GB men aged 16-30 said that the word ‘Successful’ is a word they personally think applies to being a ‘real man’. 26% of GB adults said that the word ‘Successful’ is a word they personally think applies to being a ‘real man’
 Source: Anthony Nolan, 2016.
 When asked ‘which, if any of the following would discourage you to sign up to a blood stem cell or bone marrow register?’ 34% of GB men aged 16-30 said ‘I’m scared that donating would be painful’, 27% said ‘I’m squeamish/scared about needles and/or hospitals’
 When asked ‘which, if any of the following would discourage you to sign up to a blood stem cell or bone marrow register?’ 34% of GB adults said ‘if a friend or family member needed a transplant’