Crying is defined by Wikipedia as the act of shedding tears in response to one’s emotional state (or to the emotional state of others, if you’re empathetic). Those in the medical professions call the technical term “lacrimating,” and note that tears can be shed in the absence of any provoking emotion.
It’s always been assumed that women cry more often than men, in a more dramatic way, and for longer periods of time than men. But German scientists at the German Society of Ophthalmology have actually proven these assumptions to be true. In studies that they conducted, the Germans found that the average woman cries 30 to 64 times each year, while the average man weeps only 6 to 17 times per year. Women’s crying sessions last for approximately six minutes, while men cry for just two to four minutes. If you want to talk about statistics concerning “crying jags” or episodes of “sobbing,” only six percent of men’s crying episodes can be classified as sobbing while 65 % of women’s crying is sobbing.
What’s really strange, especially to those of us raising boys, is that up until the age of 13, boys and girls cry about the same amount, for the same duration, and in the same way. When boys hit the magic age of 13, they try to put a lid on the crying episodes. The German researchers say that this shows that crying due to happiness, sadness or anger is a learned skill. But couldn’t it also be true that socialization of boys tends to change the way they think about crying—at about the age of adolescence, they learn that it’s not “cool” or “manly” for boys to cry, so they hold in their emotions, maybe more than they should.
On to more of what the Germans found about crying. They discovered that the reasons men and women cry differ as well. Women tend to cry out of feelings of inadequacy, when confronted by difficult situations, or in memory of past events. Men tend to cry in response to the end of a relationship or when they feel empathy for someone else.
So what does crying really do for us? Does it make us feel more relaxed? Is it cathartic? The German researchers didn’t take a position on that question. If it is truly an emotional release, then just think what men are missing out on. This could explain the reasons why men are more aggressive and die from heart attack more often – if you hold in your emotions and never let anything out, you’re bound to explode someday, one way or the other.