New research has found that men who identify as “incels” or involuntary celibates, experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem compared to non-incel men. The study, published in Current Psychology, also found that incels tend to internalize rejection and blame themselves, which can exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The term “incel” refers to a subculture of men who feel unable to find romantic or sexual partners despite their desire for them. Some incels express anger and frustration towards women, society, and themselves, and have been associated with violent and misogynistic behaviour. The study found that incels experience more feelings of loneliness and have less social support than non-incel men. These factors were associated with multiple mental and relational health issues, and incels were found to use more solitary and problematic coping mechanisms.
The research was conducted using an undergraduate student participant pool and an online forum, with 67 incels and 103 non-incel men participating. The results suggest that incels may lack social support as a buffer against the adverse effects of romantic rejection, and this may perpetuate feelings of isolation. The study expands on previous findings highlighting the importance of attachment styles in differentiating incels from non-incels.
The study’s authors note that incels have slowly emerged as an online group of interest to researchers, especially after several high-profile attacks. In 2018, Alek Minassian drove a rental van through downtown Toronto, killing ten people and injuring sixteen others, paying homage to Elliot Rodger, an incel who killed six people and himself during a series of violent attacks in California in 2014. While some incels have hailed Rodger as a martyr, most do not endorse violence, according to the study’s findings.
The study’s findings underscore the need for better support for men who feel isolated and rejected, especially as they relate to romantic and sexual relationships. The authors suggest that clinical interventions could help incels develop healthier coping strategies and build more supportive social networks. The study also raises questions about how to prevent violent acts committed by incels and how to address the misogynistic attitudes that some incels express towards women.
The study highlights the desolate social environment that incels inhabit and the negative impact that it can have on their mental health. Incels experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem compared to non-incel men, and often blame themselves for rejection. The study’s findings underscore the need for better support for men who feel isolated and rejected and suggest that clinical interventions could help incels develop healthier coping strategies and build more supportive social networks.