Depression: new study asks why guys "tough it out"

Researchers seek volunteers from Okanagan region to better understand depression in men

Masculinity is standing in the way of some men’s mental health, and a new study by researchers at UBC’s Okanagan and Vancouver campuses hopes to find out why.

“Significantly fewer men are diagnosed with depression than women, yet there is a much higher rate of suicide for men than their female counterparts,” says John Oliffe, associate professor at UBC’s School of Nursing in Vancouver. “New research suggests that this discrepancy may be due, in part, to men’s reluctance to acknowledge and report symptoms of depression.”

To find out what it is preventing some men from recognizing depression and seeking help, Oliffe has teamed up with Joan Bottorff, director for the Research Centre for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention at UBC Okanagan, for a research project that explores how men themselves view depression, the root causes of depression in men, and what social factors can influence their decisions to pursue – or not pursue – diagnosis and treatment.

“We’ve found that men have a tendency to ‘tough it out’ and quite often feel that depression is something they should be able to work through on their own,” says Oliffe. “Depression is sometimes even viewed by men as a ‘women’s problem.’ A lot of stigma is unfortunately still attached to mental illness.”

The Depression and Masculinity study focuses on men aged 19 to 44, primarily in relationships, who self-identify or have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life. It also includes the men’s partners to better understand how relationships can impact personal experience and perspectives. By working with men who have experienced or are experiencing depression, as well as their significant other, Oliffe and Bottorff hope to gain a greater understanding of how the management of depression can play out within the dynamic of a couple.

“Part of our research includes trying to grasp how traditional masculine roles factor into a man’s mental health and what happens when those traditional roles get dislocated,” says Bottorff. “One of our goals is to use what we learn from both the men and their partners to develop a sort of couple’s guide to dealing with male depression. The timing of this project is very interesting too, as many men are struggling to cope with the current economy and job insecurity.”

Volunteers sought

To further their study on depression and masculinity, Bottorff is looking for male volunteers aged 19 to 44, residing within 250 kilometres of Kelowna, B.C., who have faced depression in their past or are currently depressed.

“Where possible, we want to speak with their partners as well,” says Bottorff.

Bottorff is also looking for male volunteers over the age of 65 to help with a related study on older men and depression. Older men have a suicide rate that is almost eight times that of their female counterparts and, like younger generations, men are diagnosed far less with depression than women. So far, preliminary results suggest masculinity, health, senior isolation and dysfunctional relationships are among the factors that can cause depression in older men.

“There has been plenty of research done around women and depression, but not much is known around depression in the context of being a man,” says Bottorff.

Anyone interested in participating in either study can contact Joanne Carey by or phoning 250-807-8034 or Kristy Hoyak by e-mail, , or phone, 604-822-7483.

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