My role


Men DO want to talk

Men want to talk. In fact, it appears they want health professionals to help them to do it.

Research published in BMC Family Practice (the snappily-titled 'Exploring men's and women's experiences of depression and engagement with health professionals: more similarities thandifferences? A qualitative interview study' by Carol Emslie, Damien Ridge, Sue Ziebland and Kate Hunt) explored how men and women with depression articulated their emotional distress, and examined gender differences and similarities in their strategies.

The key gender difference was that men tended to value skills 'which helped them to talk' while women valued listening skills in health professionals. Men were more goal-oriented. They emphasised the importance of getting practical results from talking therapies, as opposed to 'just talking'.

Carol Emslie of the Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow said: 'Both men and women found it difficult to recognise and articulate mental health problems and this had consequences for their ability to communicate with health professionals.'

The study was unable to draw firm conclusion about who people preferred to talk to. Some respondents — both men and women - valued a close personal relationship with health professionals, while others felt that this personal relationship was a barrier to communication and preferred 'talking to a stranger'.

'Our findings suggest that there is not a straightforward relationship between gender and engagement with health professionals for people with depression,' said Emslie. 'Health professionals need to be sensitive to patients who have difficulties in expressing emotional distress and critical of gender stereotypes which suggest that women invariably find it easy to express emotional distress and men invariably find it difficult. In addition it is important to recognise that, for a minority of patients, a personal relationship with health professionals can act as a barrier to the disclosure of emotional distress.

The research — which you can download below — was based on in-depth qualitative interviews with 22 women and 16 men in the UK who identified themselves as having had depression, recruited through GPs, psychiatrists and support groups.

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Page created on August 13th, 2007

Page updated on December 1st, 2009