New Study Confirms: Male Depression Is Hard To Acknowledge

People don’t want to see male depression, even when they have it, says Dr. Viren Swami’s research.

An interesting new study from the University of Westminster seems to confirm what depression sufferers and mental health advocates have been saying for some time: when major depression occurs in men as opposed to women, both the depressed man and those around him are less likely to recognize the problem. This presents a serious obstacle to treatment of the disease.

From the Psych Central article on the study:

“Men are expected to be strong, deny pain and vulnerability, and conceal any emotional fragility,” said Swami, a psychologist at the University of Westminster, in London.

“Because of these societal expectations, men appear to have poorer understanding of mental health and aren’t as good at detecting symptoms of depression compared with women.”

Potash says the findings also may reflect the fact that women are generally more in touch with emotions and better at articulating them. Some men might have all the outward signs of depression, and yet when asked about their mood they “may not be able to say much more than ‘I don’t know,’” he says. “A substantial minority of men just don’t describe depression.”

I, and many other men suffering from depression, can attest that that pattern sounds awfully familiar. Being unable to express what we’re feeling is a very common problem for us, especially when we’re not feeling anything at all, just a blank numbness. If you or someone you love has this problem, make the effort to reach out, connect, tell your story.

In the meantime, I for one am very encouraged to see this issue being addressed by serious research. Having a gut feeling is one thing—seeing it confirmed by a peer-reviewed study is another. Thanks are due to Dr. Viren Swami for his work, and may it lead to greater understanding of the silent tragedy playing out in too many men’s lives.


Read more about this issue in our special section: On Depression


Photo—Orin Zebest/Flickr

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is a writer and editor, and quite possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. This is a great article, and this is an issue that deserves a lot more attention.

    I’ve battled depression myself, as well as studying the epidemiology of mental illness at university, so none of this is new to me. The statistics show that women are more likely to attempt suicide but that men are more likely to complete the act; men are less likely to seek help for their health and more likely to cancel an appointment, especially psychiatric appointments. It’s an incredibly serious problem.

    What I think is especially interesting is that others, friends and doctors, are less likely to notice symptoms of depression in men. I have no doubt that this is because of the same tragic conditioning that men are subjected to about “how to be a man”, but I think it is especially serious because I know full well that people who are suffering from a mental illness often need someone close to them to urge them to seek help. When a person is in a vulnerable mental state the actions of others can have a huge impact on their well-being and chances of recovery, so phrases like “man up” can do immeasurable harm.

  2. Do I feel comfortable sharing my innermost worries with my wife? No fucking way. Any sign that things are not well sends her into panic mode. Or she has an endless list of solutions that make it sound like you’re an idiot because you haven’t thought of them.
    I’d rather not be judged by my wife for my fears and failings. Anything less than perfect and you’re crucified. So you ain’t hearing about them.

  3. Has anyone ever seen those quotes where they describe the differences between the priorities of men and women that go something like:

    “The worst women fear from men is violence. The worst men fear from women is insulting.”

    Essentially this attempt at trying to show that “women have it worse” ignores what men experience.

    • I was raised to basically accept violence as part of being a man. Maybe men don’t fear it as much from women as they’ve been hardened to it over time and also that style of violence is rarely discussed n swept under the carpet more? Hard to fear what you don’t know is happening. It’s also partly that we can’t show women we’re afraid either as it won’t be manly.

      For me I had more damage from emotional abuse, bullying n teasing really tore me apart. It hurts so much to be outcasted, to feel different, I spent my highschool life feeling like I was an alien and that hurt more than the fights I got into did. I’d rather a bruise that can heal than an emotional bruise. I also have a better chance at defending physical violence and it’s much easier to goto the police with.

      • Not buying it says:


        I share the same experience with you Archy except I remember dishing back the same abuse to many other people too , deservingly or not & I am sure I have psychological scars still even after seeking help & sure enough I did wish I was attacked physically & injured then the emotional damage, that’s way till this day I have no honest answer to any medical professional who asks ” are you or have ever been suicidal ” specially in the line of work I do, other then lie.

  4. Not buying it says:

    Fully understandable looking back at the number of men who chose to exist sort quietly! Throughout the years if you can call blowing your brains, inhaling carbon monoxide in the garage, head on with semi’s, jumping of heights (balcony & bridges ), by police instigation, some were close friends , coworkers & acquaintances.

    I Believe some of them had no choice but to exist, there is things in life that are worse then living for men at least.

  5. Society doesn’t give a fuck about the psycho/socio/economical well being of men. Men play the strong silent type so women aren’t thusly burdened. Little boys until about 10 years have no problem crying and or freely showing a broader range of vulnerabilty.Have many men have experienced having their partner reject then for being too feminine,plenty.

  6. Some studies show women suffer depression more but really the reality is probably similar levels between both genders but with men they don’t notice it as much. I think even doctors had a harder time detecting depression in men.

    Amongst my friends, the majority of men are now depressed. Being as I’ve gone through ~12 years of depression n mental illness I can usually spot it fairly quick in other men but many of them are not seeking help even when told about it.

    The sheer level of drug n alcohol abuse in men is a pretty clear indication that men are having a lot of difficulty managing their health.

    • The sheer level of drug n alcohol abuse in men is a pretty clear indication that men are having a lot of difficulty managing their health.
      And not just alcohol and drug use either.

      I wonder if some of the men that engage in a lot of other wreckless and damaging behaviors (like driving fast, doing dangerous stunts, etc….) aren’t doing it as a way of “self medicating”.

      Again I think the problem is that when men do these things there is a rush to judgment that they are just engaging in self destructive behaviors because they are men and they are the architects of their own demise (or they are upset because of losing male privilege or some other dismissiveness). Which is odd I think. I can’t be the only one that has noticed that when men/boys do these destructive things to girls/women the “boys will be boys” line doesn’t fly but as soon as we talk about men/boys doing these things to themselves all of a suddenly that line flies quite well.

  7. “Men are expected to be strong, deny pain and vulnerability, and conceal any emotional fragility,” said Swami, a psychologist at the University of Westminster, in London.
    Well when your worth is almost entirely tied up in how useful you are to others this is no surprise.

    It’s a nice double whammy at work. Men are taught not to talk about or express these things and other people are taught that men don’t have these feelings or that it is unmanly to express them.

    • Agreed, on both accounts.

      If a man is not providing for a woman or child, what is his true value? And on denying pain, this affects how we take care of ourselves, too. Men are much less likely to have regular check ups with a dentist or doctor unless it’s a debilitating ailment. “Be a man” ” Suck it up” ” Play through the pain” etc…

      And people wonder why that gun man who just shoot and killed 4 innocent people seemed like such a normal guy before.

      • And people wonder why that gun man who just shoot and killed 4 innocent people seemed like such a normal guy before.
        And it also doesn’t help that people tend to leap from “man shoots innocent people” to “he was trying to control people/he thought he had the right to control others/male privilege/yada yada yada/” to “the end”.

        No look into why he was lashing out so violently. No look into why he tried to control others. No just a declaration of an attempt at control and moving on.

Speak Your Mind