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Millennial Males Are More Selfless Than Their Older Male Cohorts … Maybe

Millennial Males Are More Selfless Than Their Older Male Cohorts … Maybe
Two men in tee shirts high-fiving

The millennial generation has gotten pretty good at taking on critique and verbal abuse. Maybe that’s because they are always being critiqued and verbally abused. But a new study shows that millennials might not be so lousy after all. At least, not in all categories. When it comes to selflessness, other generations (in fact, all other generations) might be able to take a lesson from the millennial playbook. Two recent studies show that millennial males are quite selfless generally. Hooray for doing stuff right!

Although the studies were done with male participants, it is reasonable to assume that the findings can generally be applied to all millennials, including females.

What do these studies show?

Specifically, they show that millennials might — possibly — be more compassionate and selfless than their parents. The first study focused on males in the age range of 15-29. These “new and emerging adults” were asked to describe certain behaviors that they found to be morally correct. The questions ranged across many different scenarios, and aimed to target what millennials believed to be the ideal man. Turns out that “selflessness” and “social conscience” ranked pretty darn high on these mens’ list of priorities.

Wait, so … millennials are crazy amazing?

Well, before you run down the street screaming “I’m awesome,” we should understand that all studies have an inherent bias. But in any case, in a word, yes. At least, that’s what the studies found in this category. The chief reason offered for this rather anomalous example of millennials “being the best,” is that millennials have more room to be.


Essentially, millennials are selfless because they have the unique opportunity to be selfless due to some generational privilege.

Don’t worry! The study isn’t giving millennials a back-handed compliment. If anything, it is applauding all of humanity in general for coming far enough where men can have feelings and be free to care about others without looking like “a softie.” Many people, when they hear the term “millennial,” think selfish and not selfless. The opposite, though, seems to be the case, and precisely because of our privilege not despite it. Even the participants said that this was most likely the case.

A second study supports the first!

In a Canadian study that sought insight into ways to improve gender-specific health care, it was discovered that, out of 630 males — again, age 15 to 29 — most of them identified selflessness, social-conscience, and openness as primary ideal values in a male figure. This is a prominent and marked change from the traditional and stereotypical image of masculinity of the Baby Boomer generation (take that, Dad!) and certainly a change from the 1950s conception of the “real man.”

“Young Canadian men seem to be holding masculine values that are distinctly different from those of previous generations,” lead author John Oliffe, a nursing professor who leads the men’s health research program at the University of British Columbia, said in a statement. “These values may run counter to long-standing claims that young men are typically hedonistic, hyper-competitive, and that they risk or neglect their health.”

What is “a man” today, then?

In both the above-mentioned studies, a man today is one who is often helping others. And while this man may not seek to help others while sacrificing his own needs, he does think of others first, generally. In fact, roughly 91 percent of men, in both of these studies, cited how important it was to help others whenever it was possible. 80 percent also believed that men should be participating in their community social projects. One teen even said that the definition of a good man should — and, indeed is, to him — “[someone who is] really kind and generous to everyone.”

The latter study was conducted through in-person interviews conducted in small groupings of men. In all of these groups, these millennial men  – ever the realists it seems – acknowledged that, while they might be different, it is due in large part to the fact that they have “more freedom to be sensitive” in the modern age:

“I think nowadays, being a man, you can be more emotional,” one 22-year-old participant said. “Growing up, guys that cried or boys that cried were made fun of. But now there’s more acknowledgment that having emotion isn’t so bad … and people who are in touch with their emotions typically make better decisions.”

But wait!

Just because millennial males today believe that it’s OK to pet a puppy while crying to The Lion King (Mufasa! Nooo! *tear), that doesn’t mean that they do not value the traditional male attributes, too. For instance, roughly three quarters of the males in both studies said that men should be physically strong — namely because physical health is also a primary value in the modern age. Although, for 87 percent of the participants, physical strength was less important to them than intellectual prowess. For this 87 percent, intelligence was ranked as an “invaluable trait” (when polled on which traits were not important, more important and invaluable).


So, are millennial males really so different from their parents? Like previously stated: millennials should not run naked through the streets yet, screaming about how great they are because, unfortunately, no scientific conclusion can be drawn from these studies (or “logged on the books,” as they say). This is because the study did not compare the 15- to 29-year-olds to Generation Xers and Baby Boomers. There were no control groups made up of these two generations. And so the findings, while intriguing, are technically not “scientific.”  

Sorry! Perhaps these values that millennials uphold are the same as the ones that their parents and grandparents upheld, but only packaged in a different manner. What it does show, however, is that millennial males are willing to articulate their thoughts. And that is still pretty awesome.


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