Some experts are worried that men's economic woes will lead to higher rates of depression. Will this mean a greater awareness of how the illness affects men?
An article in the British Journal of Psychiatry (reported in the BBC) says the disappearance of traditionally male jobs will impact men's psychological well-being. Says author Dr. Boadie Dunlop, "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." Peter Baker of Men's Health Forum concurs, telling the BBC, "This really confirms what we already know about unemployment and that it has a much bigger impact on men, mainly because male identity is bound up as a worker. Male social networks are based around work so losing a job can lead to isolation and depression." And psychiatrist Cosmo Hallstrom says, "Having to send your wife out and feel like a parasite surely would put up the rate of depression, but overall is it unique to men? I don't know."
Of course, all this assumes that men's social and familial roles will stay the same throughout the 21st century, even as the economy changes. Losing a job is stressful for anyone, and for men raised with traditional breadwinner expectations, adjustment may be difficult. But the idea of man as rightful financial caretaker for a family is already eroding, and many men may not look upon a female partner's employment as "having to send your wife out." A recession is difficult and painful for everyone involved, but assuming that gender roles will remain static throughout it doesn't really help anybody.
Stodgy gender ideas aside, though, it's possible that Dunlop's article and others like it will help depressed men get better treatment and some much-needed understanding. The current wisdom is, as Dunlop says, that "women are almost twice as likely to develop major depressive disorder in their lifetime as men," but men's depression may well be underreported. With male depression in the news, men who are suffering may be more likely to seek treatment, thus giving clinicians new insight into ways the illness affects male patients. And as gender roles change, the idea that it's unmanly to seek help will hopefully grow more and more outdated.