New dads are just as likely as moms to suffer from the anxiety, stress and depression associated with the “baby blues,” according to Australian researchers.
“What surprised us was that we were seeing rates of problems at the same level as what we were seeing in the mothers,” said chief researcher Jan Nicholson, Ph.D., research director at Melbourne’s Parenting Research Centre. “That was a surprise. We simply haven’t looked for this before.”
Nicholson defined the baby blues as a condition which includes symptoms of anxiety, worry, stress, feeling unable to cope, feeling blue and despairing that things won’t get better.
The researchers examined mental health data of 5,000 new mothers up until their child turned 5 and at questionnaires returned by 3,471 of the fathers. In the child’s first year of life, 9.7 percent of fathers reported symptoms of postnatal depression compared with 9.4 percent of mothers—a statistically insignificant difference.
“We were able to determine that new fathers have a higher rate of these problems, a 40 percent higher rate, than men generally who are of a similar age and background,” Nicholson said.
Men with lower incomes were at a 70 percent higher risk and the younger the father the higher the risk. Fathers with high levels of psychological stress when their children were infants were far more likely to still be reporting psychological difficulties when their children turned 2 and 4 years old.
Nicholson said the study emphasizes that it’s time to get rid of the idea that only young mothers get the baby blues.
“There’s often an assumption that with mothers their distress is related to biological changes, but also that early life services are very much geared around mothers and babies, and we really haven’t looked at fathers closely before to see what’s going on with them,” she said.
“We think that to the extent that we have services that are geared to supporting women, given that the rate is the same for men, we should be having similar efforts going into supporting men.”
The study is published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
Source: Parenting Research Centre