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Men With Depression Have More Disabilities Than Women

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Men With Depression Have More Disabilities Than Women

Wellington, Dec 8 NZPA - Men with common mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety, are more likely than women with those disorders to have difficulties functioning socially and in their other roles, an Otago University study finds.

This is despite the common perception that women often have more problems with mental health and subsequent disabilities.

The study, recently published in the international Journal of Affective Disorders, broke new ground in research in that area, researcher Kate Scott said today.

It countered smaller and less robust studies which had suggested that women with depression had more disabilities than men.

"Our research confirms that women are more likely than men to experience mood and anxiety disorders, but what is new is our finding that among men and women with those disorders, it is actually men who experience greater difficulties in role, social and cognitive functioning," Dr Scott said.

"This runs counter to most prior findings and needs to be noted by clinicians and policymakers."

Dr Scott said a key result showed that men with a current mood disorder were ten times more likely to report role disability than men without a mood disorder, while women with a mood disorder were four times more likely to have role disability than women without one.

A similar pattern was seen with social and cognitive functioning, and with anxiety disorders.

"What's happening here is that both men and women who suffer from depression or anxiety have problems functioning in their day-to-day roles, in social situations and with communicating, but men have more difficulty in these areas than women."

However, Dr Scott said the study gave no reasons for the gender differences, and these differences did not happen with substance use disorders.

"One explanation for the difference may be that women are more willing to seek treatment than men.

"They also have greater intimate and emotional ties to family or friends, which may help offset the impact that depression and anxiety have on social functioning."

As most males were seen as the primary "breadwinner" one might think that this was the reason for a higher rate of role disability.

However, Dr Scott found that among men and women who worked, men still had greater problems in role function if they were experiencing depression or anxiety.

"In fact the gender difference is even greater for this group."

One of the key implications of this study for general practitioners and other health professionals was that better assessment of a male patient's mental health might be achieved by questioning role and social functioning, rather than focusing on depression and anxiety symptoms.

Dr Scott also said that because men went to the doctor less frequently than women, more attention needed to be paid to raising the profile of common mental disorders and disabilities in the workplace, especially those that employed many men.

"A more systematic and assertive focus on men in this area is overdue for humanitarian, social and economic reasons."

The study interviewed 7435 people aged 16 and over.

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