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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Psychiatrists warn men face ‘a depressing future’

Embargoed until 01 March 2011

Men face a ‘depressing future’ because of significant changes to the economic and social environment of Western countries, according to American psychiatrists.

Experts from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, predict that rates of depressive disorders among men will increase as the 21st century progresses. They make their predictions in the March issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Dr Boadie Dunlop, of Emory University School of Medicine, said: “Women are almost twice as likely to develop major depressive disorder in their lifetime as men. But we believe this difference may well change in the coming decades.”

Dr Dunlop, with his colleague Tanja Mletzko, has identified two major societal shifts that are already underway in Western countries and which could increase rates of depression among men. First, they argue that society is encouraging men to discuss their feelings more, and stop being so tough and stoic. Second, Western economics are undergoing a ‘profound restructuring’, with traditional male jobs associated with manufacturing and physical labour being out-sourced to low- and middle-income nations, or becoming obsolete through technological advances.

Dr Dunlop said: “Dubbed by some the ‘Mancession’, the economic downturn has hit men particularly hard because of its disproportionate effect on traditional male industries such as construction and manufacturing. Research has shown that roughly 75% of jobs lost in the United States since the beginning of the recession in 2007 were held by men. There is little reason to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers with economic recovery.

“Furthermore, Western women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners, with 22% of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4% in 1970. Compared to women, men attach greater importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families, and men’s failure to fulfil the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict.”

Dr Dunlop concluded: “Western men will face a difficult road in the 21st century, particularly those with low levels of education. We believe economic and societal changes will have significant implications for men’s mental health, and mental health practitioners need to be aware of these issues.”

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Dunlop BW and Mletzko T. Will current socioeconomic trends produce a depressing future for men? British Journal of Psychiatry 2011; 198: 167-168


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