THURSDAY, Sept. 13, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Although depression affects about one-third of all stroke victims, male stroke survivors are more likely to become depressed than females, a small new study suggests.
The gap may be due to men putting extra stock into the notion that they will enjoy good health, one of the researchers explained.
Many of these male stroke survivors "may be accustomed to, and value highly, being in control of their health," said study author Michael McCarthy, of the University of Cincinnati College of Health Sciences School of Social Work. "For these individuals, loss of control due to infirmity caused by stroke could be perceived as a loss of power and prestige. These losses, in turn, may result in more distress and greater depressive syndromes."
The study, published Sept. 12 in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, involved 36 people who had a first stroke within the previous 36 months. Of these stroke survivors, 16 were women and 20 were men.
The researchers assessed the participants' symptoms of depression as well as their ability to perform routine activities, such as bathing and cutting their food. They also examined the amount of uncertainty the survivors had about their health or the outcome of their stroke. The participants were asked to agree or disagree with certain statements, such as "I don't know what's wrong with me," and "I have a lot of questions without answers."
The study revealed that uncertainty about health was strongly associated with greater depression for both men and women. The researchers noted, however, that this link was stronger for the men.
The findings suggest that talking to survivors and their family members in clear, easily understood terms about the patient's health "may be an effective approach for reducing survivor distress and, ultimately, for improving rehabilitation outcomes," McCarthy said in a news release from the journal.
The researchers noted that the study was limited in size and diversity. McCarthy said that future studies with people from various social and economic backgrounds should give more data on how gender and health-related beliefs affect survivor outcomes. More research might also illuminate how women are relatively protected from depression after a stroke, compared to men.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health provides more information on stroke and depression.