(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A man's stereotypical self-image as the "strong, silent type" and the stigma of depression are major reasons why older men are less likely than women to be referred to studies of depression, to seek treatment for depression, and to recognize and express symptoms of depression, according to clinicians and recruiters interviewed for a new study from the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
The study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that depressed older men are less likely than women to receive treatment for their depression, underscoring the importance of these barriers.
Among some older men, the study found, traditional views of masculinity and the stigma associated with mental illness lead to a tendency to reject a diagnosis of depression, and to conceal or mask symptoms of the condition. Authored by UC Davis associate professor of psychiatry professor Ladson Hinton, the study appears in the October 2006 edition of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The study contributes further evidence to gender disparities in depression care documented in previous studies, and identifies reasons for these disparities.
The findings are important in the arena of public health because of depression's association with suicide in older adults. Older men have higher rates of completed suicide: 31.8 per 100,000 in men age 65 and older, compared with 4.1 per 100,000 in older women. The reasons for gender disparities in depression care among older adults are poorly understood, the study states.
Among the reasons found in prior research are more negative attitudes among men toward seeking help for mental health problems, lower disclosure rates of depressive symptoms, lower rates of health service use, and more "atypical" presentations of depression. However, the problem of under-treatment in older men has received little focused attention.