Men are twice as likely as women to have their depression written off as nothing more than feeling a little low, according to a study of our attitudes to mental health.
Society’s assumption that men are “tough” means both sexes are less likely to recognise telltale signs of depression in them, according to University of Westminster researcher.
And while one might think that men would be better at spotting symptoms in their brethren, the opposite is actually true. They are even more blind to emotional distress in other men than women are.
Researchers reached their conclusions after asking more than 1,200 people to gauge if two fictional characters were suffering from a mental health problem.
Half were asked to assess the state of a character called ‘Jack’ and half a character called ‘Kate’.
They were read a paragraph about these characters – but the only difference between them was their gender.
It started: “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.”
Fifty-seven per cent thought that ‘Kate’ was suffering from a mental health problem, while only 52 per cent thought that ‘Jack’ was.
And while 10 per cent were positive ‘Kate’ was not suffering from a mental health problem, twice as many (21 per cent) thought that of ‘Jack’.
The remainder were unsure.
Men and women were equally likely to think that ‘Kate’ was suffering from depression.
But men were almost twice as likely as women to think that ‘Jack’ did not have a mental disorder.
Dr Viren Swami, who wrote the article, published in the journal PLoS One, said: “In our society men are led to believe that they don’t suffer from depression.”
Dominant views of masculinity “stress toughness and strength”, he explained.
“Men tend to deny having depression in the first place. They tend to think their feelings are just part of daily life.”
This meant it was “quite possible” that they dismissed the possibility of depression in other men, he said.
Another study from Malaysia found men tend to cite specific reasons for feeling low, such as not having a girlfriend or having an unfulfilling job, rather than admitting to depression.