'Real Man' Stereotypes Keep Depressed Men From Treatment

Older males have an 8-fold higher suicide risk than women, experts note

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FRIDAY, Oct. 6, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The "strong, silent type" of self-image cherished by many men, combined with social stigma, are major reasons why older American males are less likely than women to seek and receive treatment for depression, researchers say.

The findings from a team at the University of California, Davis, are important because the rate of completed suicide among American men aged 65 and older is nearly 32 per 100,000, compared with about four per 100,000 for women in the same age group.

The researchers examined data from 1,800 adults aged 60 and older with major depression or a related disorder who took part in a national study on depression. They also interviewed 30 people connected to the study -- including doctors, depression-care managers, and study recruiters -- in order to get their views about the challenges in recruiting and treating older men with depression.

The study found that, compared with older women, older men were much less likely to recognize and describe symptoms of depression and to have received prior treatment for depression.

The interviews with the people connected to the study revealed factors that contributed to the differences between men and women, including the way that men experience and express their depression, traditional male attitudes, and the stigma of depression.

"Because older men tend not to endorse depressed mood or sadness, they were often felt to be more reluctant to accept the diagnosis of depression and the treatment recommendations," the study authors noted.

The findings suggest new ways to educate and help older men with depression, such as using less direct or clinical (i.e. threatening) language to discuss depression; involving family in all phases of treatment; and de-emphasizing professional labels and placing more emphasis on symptoms and sources of stress.

The study was published in the October issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about men and depression.

SOURCE: University of California, Davis, news release, Sept. 27, 2006

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