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You got this written on the road

With various studies available highlighting the prevalence of depression in women, it can be easy to assume that females are at greater risk of suffering from the condition. But this isn’t always the case and there are various risk factors for depression in men. We took a look at why men could be at greater risk of depression.

Culture and societal pressure
Due to certain attitudes relating to the diagnosis of depression in men, it is common that males find it difficult for males to open up about their personal feelings. Some still feel there is a stigma attached to depression in men, with a view that it makes them weak. The culture for men to act “manly,” can often lead to low mood or depressive and anxious feelings in men being ignored as a serious health condition, therefore help isn’t sought.

According to a 2016 survey by Opinion Leader for the Men’s Health Forum, most men said they would “take time off work to get medical help for physical symptoms such as blood in stools or urine, unexpected lumps or chest pain, yet fewer than one in five said they would do the same for anxiety (19%) or feeling low (15%).”

The reactions and attitudes of others
The attitudes surrounding mental health and depression in men isn’t always specific to the person suffering. The reactions from others can also be a factor, which in itself could lead to exacerbation of the condition. Some men might be worried to admit their own depression due to concerns about how their friends, families or colleagues could react.

This could lead to other negative reactions, such as anger and reckless behaviour as well as engaging in other activities to avoid confronting the issue and seeking help. For example, men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent.

A lack of understanding and underdiagnosis
Research by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that many men didn’t realise that depression can have a number of physical problems, including “headaches, stomach problems, and chronic pain.”

This can also lead to under-diagnosis of the condition. A 2016 survey conducted by YouGov for the Mental Health Foundation, 28% of men had not sought medical help for the last mental health problem they experienced compared to 19% of women.

Age and isolation
Even though mental health issues such as depression are common in younger people, they don’t just affect this generation. Depression and anxiety still exist in older people but tend to happen for different reasons. These can include:

  • The diagnosis of a physical illness, such as prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease or dementia
  • Living with chronic pain
  • Dealing with a personal loss such as a relationship or the absence of friends and family
  • Trying to navigate a different way of life and accepting issues such as a change in independence, mobility and flexibility
  • A change in career
  • Social isolation
  • Anniversaries and specific memories that can trigger an emotional response

It can be common for older people to keep their personal experiences of anxiety and depression to themselves. Not only can this mean that help isn’t sought but it can also mean symptoms gradually worsen, with professional help only being looked into once when they’re at their most severe.

Unfortunately, many people over the age of 60 still feel there is a stigma attached to the diagnosis of depression and its associated symptoms, but there is help available. From the NHS and talking therapies to specific charities such as Mind and the Age UK Advice Line.