My role


Male mental misery can only get worse

Is your future so bright you'll have to wear shades? According to American psychiatrists, men face a ‘depressing future’ because of significant changes to the economic and social environment of Western countries.

Writing in the March 2011 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, experts reckon the gender balance of depression will change as the 21st century progresses.

Dr Boadie Dunlop, of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, said: 'Women are almost twice as likely to develop major depressive disorder in their lifetime as men. But we believe this difference may well change in the coming decades.'

Dr Dunlop, with his colleague Tanja Mletzko, has identified two major shifts already underway in Western countries which could increase rates of depression among men:

  • society is encouraging men to discuss their feelings more, and stop being so tough and stoic;
  • Western economies are undergoing a ‘profound restructuring’, with traditional male jobs associated with manufacturing and physical labour being out-sourced to low- and middle-income nations, or becoming obsolete through technological advances.


Dr Dunlop said: 'Dubbed by some the ‘Mancession’, the economic downturn has hit men particularly hard because of its disproportionate effect on traditional male industries such as construction and manufacturing. Research has shown that roughly 75% of jobs lost in the United States since the beginning of the recession in 2007 were held by men. There is little reason to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers with economic recovery.'

Men's Health Forum CEO Peter Baker said: 'We already know that unemployment has a much bigger impact on men, mainly because male identity is bound up with work. Male social networks are often based around work so losing a job can lead to isolation and depression.'

Five times as many women are now the major breadwinners in their household than forty years ago.

'Western women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners,' said Dr Dunlop, 'with 22% of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4% in 1970. Compared to women, men attach greater importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families, and men’s failure to fulfil the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict.'

Dr Dunlop concluded: 'Western men will face a difficult road in the 21st century, particularly those with low levels of education. We believe economic and societal changes will have significant implications for men’s mental health, and mental health practitioners need to be aware of these issues.'

What do you think? Is the writing on the wall for men? Or do we just need to change?

Page created on March 1st, 2011

Page updated on March 4th, 2011