A role reversal of sorts may significantly increase the rate of men’s battle with depression in the 21st century, according to an editorial published in the recent issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Author Boadie Dunlop, M.D., believes economic times and evolving demographics will contribute to the rise in mental health problems among men — especially with depression.
“Compared to women, many men attach a great importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families. Failure to fulfill the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict,” Dunlop writes.
Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. And there is little reason to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers with economic recovery.
On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only four percent in 1970.
Additionally, biological and sociological differences in men and women may make it harder for men to fit into the role of primary care provider to young children than most women.
“Men in the changing economy will face the same risks for depression that women faced in older economies: trapped in a family role from which they cannot escape because of an inability to find employment,” said Dunlop, a psychiatrist and Emory University professor.
Finally, the societal expectation that men be tough, stoic and hide their feelings is being significantly eroded. The growing awareness about mental health through education, and hearing prominent male figures talk about their depression, has had a significant impact in opening up the public space for men to validate symptoms of depression.
One of the most well-established findings in the epidemiology of psychiatric disorders is that women have nearly twice the lifetime risk of developing major depressive disorder than men. “The changing socioeconomic positions of the West could lead to prevalence in the rates of depression in men increasing, while rates in women decrease,” Dunlop warned.
“Practitioners need to be aware of these forces of life, and be prepared to explore with their patients the meaning of these changes and interventions that might be helpful.”
Source: Emory University