Is It True That Men Have a Lower Risk of Experiencing Depression Than Women Do?


It’s been generally accepted throughout history that women are more likely to suffer from depression than males. In point of fact, the majority of mental health professionals are in agreement that women are more likely to suffer from depression. But there could be more to the story than meets the eye.

According to psychiatrist Frank Pavlovcic III, DO, outpatient clinical director at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in Michigan, “other studies imply we’re missing diagnoses in guys.” “When studies look at alternate symptoms and when you catch guys experiencing these, the rate seems more similar,” she said. “[T]here are more men feeling these symptoms.”

A study that was published in 2013 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry and is frequently cited suggests that the rates are actually nearly identical: when depression symptoms that are commonly associated with men were included in the study, 30.6% of men met the criteria for depression, as did 33.3% of women.

What you need to know about this apparent discrepancy and why men can be underdiagnosed for depression is provided in the following paragraphs.

The effects of being stigmatised in society

When a man admits to having depressive feelings, does he put himself at risk of facing stigma?

In a nutshell, the answer is “yes,” according to Dr. Pavlovcic. “Studies reveal that males with depression are seen more unfavourably by both men and women than are women with depression. This is in contrast to the experience of women who have depression. According to the findings of some of these studies, men are thought to be more hazardous than women, and it is suggested that they should only “get themselves together.”

The idea that men should be able to work hard, be protective of others, and be able to brush off emotional anguish is ingrained in many societal standards that continue to exist today.

According to Pavlovcic, “expectations vary from culture to culture, but in Western culture, it is expected that males are rugged.”

These ideas frequently persist in depressive individuals. According to research published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in the year 2021, it was discovered that women are more likely than males to notice and report minor emotional symptoms. This may result in women getting recognised and treated for depression earlier than they would otherwise.

Men, on the other hand, tend to conceal their symptoms for fear of appearing weak, so they wait until they have more severe symptoms before seeking care. This can cause men to wait until they have more severe symptoms. Delaying diagnosis, on the other hand, can result in longer bouts of depression, more severe symptoms, and an even heightened chance of engaging in self-injurious behaviour.

Pavlovcic warns against this because of the link that exists between depression and the act of taking one’s own life. It is estimated that men have a three to four times higher risk of committing suicide compared to women, and that men account for between 75 and 80 percent of all suicide victims.

On the other hand, this stereotype can be shifting slowly over time.

As the rates of anxiety and despair have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 epidemic, mental health issues have received a growing amount of attention from the general public. A study that looked at how COVID-19 affected people’s mental health and was published in the JAMA in 2020 found that there was less of a gender gap. According to the findings of the study, during the pandemic, 33 percent of women and 21 percent of men reported experiencing symptoms of depression.

It is common for men’s symptoms to go unnoticed.

Men frequently exhibit symptoms that are not typical of depression, which is another factor that makes it challenging to diagnose depression in males.

According to Pavlovcic, “there is a constellation of symptoms that are commonly associated with depression. These symptoms include sleep difficulties, poor energy, apathy, and anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure.” Even though men do suffer these symptoms, they are more likely than women to exhibit other symptoms, such as rage, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and risky behaviour.

“Even when guys complain about things like irritability and impulsivity, it wouldn’t always push a healthcare professional toward a diagnosis of depression,” Pavlovcic adds. “That would not necessarily drive a healthcare provider toward a diagnostic of depression.” [Citation needed] “If you ask a man if he’s been feeling depressed, he might answer no, but he’s been angry, and it’s easy to miss that. If you ask him if he’s been feeling angry, he might say he’s been angry. Women are more likely to report experiencing what are known as “classic” depressive symptoms.

The beginnings are, for the most part, equivalent.

Although men and women frequently exhibit different symptoms of depression, the underlying causes of the condition are comparable in both genders.

“Depression is generally the result of a combination of genetic factors and one or more environmental factors,” says Pavlovcic. “These environmental factors can include things like poor resilience, possibly a negative temperament to begin with, trauma, seasonal sensitivity, medication, and medical issues.” There is, however, one important exception to this rule. “Hormone fluctuations in women, such as those that occur after menopause or pregnancy, can potentially be a contributing factor in depression.”

The significance of looking for assistance.

It can be even more challenging for an individual to diagnose themselves with depression than it is for mental health experts to make a diagnosis of depression in a person, particularly a man. According to Pavlovcic, the key is to keep an eye out for patterns.

He claims that individuals frequently fail to see the woods for the trees. “You’re not just depressed because you had a horrible day; you’re caught in a depressed mindset. There are instances when a lot of effort is required to recognise persistent patterns. According to Pavlovcic, one’s relatives and friends are frequently in a better position to notice if something is awry than the individual themselves.

When it comes to treatment, there is not much of a difference between men and women, despite the fact that their symptoms may be distinct from one another.

According to Pavlovcic, “Studies demonstrate that males and females who suffer from depression respond similarly to the traditional treatments of medicine and counselling.” However, he stresses the significance of beginning treatment as soon as one becomes aware that there is a problem. Early intervention in the treatment of depression is recommended. It is possible that the condition will become more severe if you delay treatment.

Do not ignore someone who has communicated feelings of self-harm or suicide ideation, particularly if you or anyone you know has ever considered ending their life or attempted to do so. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or dial 911 without delay for immediate assistance.

Gender disparities in depression in representative national samples: Meta-analyses of diagnoses and symptoms. Salk RH, Hyde JS, and Abramson LY. Psychol Bull. 2017;143(8):783-822.

Martin L.A., H.W. Neighbors, and D.M. Griffith. The National Comorbidity Survey Replication was used to do research on the differences in how men and women experience the symptoms of depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70.

Ettman CK, Abdalla SM, Cohen GH, Sampson L, Vivier PM, Galea S. The Prevalence of Depressive Symptoms in Adults in the United States Prior to and During the COVID-19 Pandemic JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3.

Shi Peixia, Yang Aigang, Zhao Qing, Chen Zhaohua, Ren Xiaomei, Dai Qin. A Hypothesis of Gender Differences in the Self-Reporting of Symptoms of Depression: Implications to Solve Under-Diagnosis and Under-Treatment of Depression in Males [A Hypothesis of Gender Differences in the Self-Reporting of Symptoms of Depression] Frontiers in Psychiatry, Volume 21, Issue 12, 2021


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