WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- People are more likely to be able to identify symptoms of depression in women than men, according to a study that looked at how gender influences public perceptions of people with depression.
Study participants were given descriptions of identical symptoms of depression in a fictitious man and woman (named Jack and Kate) and asked whether they had depression and whether they should seek professional help.
Here's an example of how the symptoms were described: "For the past two weeks, Kate/Jack has been feeling really down. S/he wakes up in the morning with a flat, heavy feeling that sticks with her/him all day. S/he isn't enjoying things the way s/he normally would. S/he finds it hard to concentrate on anything."
Based on the information they were given, both men and women were likely to conclude that Kate had depression, but men were less likely than women to suggest that Jack had depression, according to study author Viren Swami. of the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom.
All of the study participants, and especially men, found Kate's case significantly more distressing, hard to treat and worthy of sympathy than Jack's case. In addition, men were more likely than women to suggest that Kate seek professional mental health help, while both men and women were equally likely to make this suggestion for Jack.
Swami also found that skepticism about psychiatry and anti-scientific attitudes influenced people's views about depression.
The findings, published Nov. 14 in the journal PLoS One, could prove helpful in efforts to improve public awareness and knowledge about mental health issues, Swami said in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression.