Are Changes In Gender Roles Causing More Men To Suffer From Depression?

May 15, 1998

(Admission for depression among men in Scotland, 1980-95: retrospective study)

It is well documented that a rising number of men are committing suicide, but is this because there is an increase in the prevalence of depression in men? In this week's BMJ, Dr Polash Shajahan and Dr Jonathan Cavanagh from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland report the results of their study into depression in men and women in Scotland.

The authors found that over the period the numbers of women admitted to hospital for depression decreased, whilst the number men increased, even though overall the total number of women admitted was far higher than for men. The authors question whether or not this trend is a true reflection of prevalence or whether it could be affected by a change in admission criteria.

Shajahan and Cavanagh note that there have been important changes in gender roles over the last 20 years. These include a decrease in the number of men in full time work and an increase in the number of women in both part time and full time work. For men, the resultant loss of status as sole financial provider for the family, the perceived loss of social status and the consequent social isolation could all be risk factors for depression. But could the figures be down to a change in the way GPs treat depression or have men altered their health seeking behaviour and become more willing to accept psychiatric help? The authors think not.


Dr Polash Shajahan, Specialist Registrar, Medical Research Council Brain Metabolism Unit, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh


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