Depression and Men: Key Gender Differences
Men and women may have the same symptoms of depression. The way both experience symptoms, though, is where the similarities end.
The symptoms of depression are universal. But when it comes to how people experience and cope with those symptoms, gender patterns often emerge.
Twice as many women as men suffer depression each year, and women are more likely to seek treatment for it. Women tend to be more up front about feelings of sadness, worthlessness, guilt and a loss of interest in favorite activities.
Men may acknowledge that they have fatigue, irritability and sleep disturbances. Or they may lose interest in work or hobbies. The depression can get worse, though, when they don't acknowledge their feelings, ask for help or seek treatment. Men who don't get help can end up:
- Turning to alcohol or drugs
Men who attempt to hide their depression may also:
- Work compulsively
- Behave recklessly
- Take risks
- Put themselves in harm's way
Suicide is often linked to depression. And suicide rates worldwide among men have risen steadily since 1950. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death in males ages 15 to 34.
In the U.S., women attempt suicide more often than men. But four times as many men as women die from their attempts. Many theories exist as to why male suicide rates are higher than women's. The higher rate among men may be due to:
- Suicide attempts with methods more lethal than those used by women
- Not seeking treatment for symptoms as often as women
- Not getting the right diagnosis
Always call 9-1-1 if you feel you may harm yourself or others.
Male suicide rates rise with age. The highest rates among women occur between ages 18 and 45. The high rate among aging males may be tied to stress, life transitions and loss of identity. If a man has been the primary wage earner for his family and has identified heavily with his job, he may feel stress when he is laid off or retired. Depression can also be a problem among men of any age who are unemployed, especially when joblessness is long-term.
Symptoms of depression in older men may be missed. Many men complain of physical symptoms, but it can be hard to figure out if depression is tied to illness. Heart disease, stroke or cancer can cause depression symptoms. Some drugs taken for these conditions can also have side effects that can cause depression. Despite the increased rate of depression as men age, though, depression is not a normal part of aging.
Up to 83 percent of all people who die by suicide may have contact with a primary care doctor within a year before dying. Up to 20 percent of them actually may see their doctors one day before death. Visits to a doctor are known to increase in the period before someone's suicide.
With a diagnosis and proper care for depression, the great majority of people respond to treatment. Treatment usually involves antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Treatment can:
- Relieve unnecessary suffering
- Improve the chances for recovery from other illnesses
- Prolong a productive life
It is important that men talk to their doctors about how they're feeling and ask for help.