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Frequently Asked Questions

Depression in Men

How common is Depression in Men?

Studies in children find no gender differences in depression until about age 12 when girls’ rates begin to increase and boys’ rates of depression remain stable. By adolescence, and through adulthood, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. However, despite these gender differences, a significant percentage of men struggle with depression as it is traditionally defined. Research indicates that in the United States alone, over 6 million men are diagnosed with depression each year and 12% will experience major depression at some time during their lives.  In addition, many researchers and clinicians suggest that rates of depression in men may be much higher because men may be less likely to disclose symptoms of depression and may mask feelings of sadness with other behaviors.

Do Men Experience Depression Differently than Women?

There is conflicting research about men and depression. A common theory in popular literature is that men experience depression differently than women. Specifically, it is suggested that men may be more likely to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances rather than reporting feelings of sadness. Although this idea has gained some momentum over the last 10 years in clinical circles, there is still very little empirical research that supports the notion of a “masculine” form of depression. Another theory is that men may experience the same symptoms as women but may cope with these symptoms differently. For example, some researchers suggest that men may cope with emotional difficulties by alcohol or substance use, anger and aggression, increased risk-taking, and/or overworking. A third possibility is that men may experience the same symptoms of depression as women but may be less likely to acknowledge, talk about, or seek treatment for depression symptoms therefore, symptoms may go unrecognized for many depressed men.

Male gender roles may play a role in the expression and treatment of depression in men. Men who are highly competitive, overly focused on achieving success, and highly emotionally controlled tend to have higher rates of depression and greater emotional distress. Societal pressures for men to hide their emotions and maintain a “stiff upper lip” also contribute to men’s reduced willingness to discuss emotional pain and seek treatment for emotional problems.

Men and Suicide

Although men may be less likely to be diagnosed with depression they are four times more likely than women to die of suicide. Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in men and rates of suicide in young men have been slowly increasing over the last 50 years. Predictors of suicide behaviors in men include (but are not limited to) negative thought patterns, poor coping skills, low social support, current or past history of depression, past suicide attempts, and co-occurring psychological problems especially substance use disorders.

Men, Depression and Treatment

The good news is that when men do decide to seek treatment there are many different treatment options currently available that are supported by scientific research (see section on Depression in FAQ for a description of available treatments) and men respond equally well to these treatment as women. Cognitive behavioral therapies (therapies that focus on the role of thoughts, behaviors, and reactions and the relationship between the three) may be particularly well-suited for men. These therapies tend to be more structured and focus on the provision of specific skills. Overall, men rate structured treatment approaches more positively than traditional talk therapies for a range of problems and many men prefer counseling approaches to medications. However, as mentioned in the depression FAQ section, many forms of treatment have been found to be effective therefore offering men a wide range of treatment opportunities.


Resources for Men and Depression

Men and Depression campaign by National Institute of Mental Health

Real men, real depression is a campaign run by the National Institute of Mental health. The website has information about depression in men including signs and symptoms, depression treatments, educational materials, resources for health care providers, and real stories of several men with depression. Information is available in English and Spanish.

Men Get Depression Campaign

A national education outreach campaign to increase knowledge, reduce stigma, and promote screening and treatment for depressed men. The campaign runs a website with resources including a documentary that originally aired on public television and information about men and depression. Information is available in English and Spanish.