The proportion of men who experience symptoms of depression
may be similar to the proportion of women with depression when doctors look for
non-traditional symptoms, according to a new study.
Researchers found that one third of both men and women met
the criteria for a depression diagnosis when traditional and alternative
symptoms such as aggression and sleep problems – were taken into account.
"You end up getting very similar rates of
depression," Lisa Martin, the study's lead author from the University of
Michigan in Dear born, told Reuters Health.
About 16% of Americans currently meet the criteria for
depression, Martin and her colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry. Previous
research has found women are about twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with
however, have suggested that men don't exhibit the same symptoms of depression
as women. Or, they may not be as willing to divulge their symptoms to a doctor.
For example, previous studies found that depressed men are
more likely to show signs of anger, self-destruction, self-distractions and
irritability, rather than outward sadness.
Traditional and alternative symptoms
For the new study, Martin and her colleagues used data from
a nationally-representative survey of 3 310 women and 2 382 men that is used to
measure the prevalence of mental illness.
When the researchers used a scale that was designed to
assess depression symptoms common among men, they found about 26% of men and
about 22% of women met the criteria for depression.
When they used a scale that included both traditional and
alternative symptoms, there was little difference between the two groups: about
33% of women met the criteria for depression, compared to about 31% of men.
"Paying attention to a couple of these other symptoms
allowed men who didn't really meet the threshold of symptoms to be
considered," Martin said. "Right now we're in an interesting place
where clinicians and some research say we really need to pay attention to
(alternative depression symptoms)," she added.
In addition to decreasing quality of life, previous research
has suggested depression is linked to smoking, alcohol use, inactivity and
trouble sleeping, according to the US Centers for Disease and Control and
Prevention. Martin said her research and past findings suggest doctors should
change how they assess their patients to help identify those experiencing, or at
risk for depression.
"It doesn't do us a lot of good to know more men get
depression more than we thought if we can't get them through the door to get
help," Martin said. "How we advertise for support groups and how we do
outreach to people needs to change," she said, adding that people need to
know that depression is not just a female disease.
She cautioned, however, that her study did have limitations,
including that the surveys did not include questions about overworking, over
exercising, changes in sexual behavior and other markers for depression among