Tough guy mentality prevents some men from seeking help for depression

Research Activities, July 2012, No. 383

Although great strides have been made in the public's awareness of depression, there is a lingering stigma about the disease. Depressed men are particularly reluctant to seek help due to gender norms that depict men as tough and autonomous. Researchers recently explored how "toughness" in both men and women contributes to a delay in getting professional treatment for depression. They found men who perceived themselves as being tough preferred a wait-and-see approach to a diagnosis of depression. The gender norm of toughness also negatively affected how women seek out treatment, although to a lesser degree.

A total of 1,051 men and women were contacted via telephone following their participation in the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey. In the follow-up call, participants were asked about their level of toughness, any current symptoms of depression, and the types of treatment they would prefer if diagnosed with depression. Overall, 11 percent of respondents said they would prefer to wait and see what happens without seeking treatment if they received a depression diagnosis. Compared to women, men scored higher on toughness and were more likely to wait and see if symptoms resolved on their own. However, this toughness trait was associated with a greater preference to wait it out for both men and women.

The researchers suggest that public education campaigns portray seeking help as an act of toughness and as an aggressive act of taking control of one's life. Such reframing of messages may help both depressed men and women get the help they need. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00044).

See "Role of the gender-linked norm of toughness in the decision to engage in treatment for depression," by Ryan E. O'Loughlin, Ph.D., Paul R. Duberstein, Ph.D., Peter J. Veazie, Ph.D., and others in Psychiatric Services 62(7), pp. 740-746, 2011.

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Current as of July 2012
Internet Citation: Tough guy mentality prevents some men from seeking help for depression: Research Activities, July 2012, No. 383. July 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jul12/0712RA15.html