Men do not have a pregnancy or delivery. Their hormone levels do not pop out. They don’t get nipple nipples. What should they actually be depressed about? Quite a lot, research from Sweden shows that in the past 10 years a significant number of men have struggled with the transition to paternity.
This latest study attempts to quantify how many men suffer from postnatal depression. Previous studies have found between 4% and 10% of men, while in this small sample of 447 Swedish fathers who did volunteer work (and may not represent the average father), a surprising 28% of men had symptoms above mild levels of depression. In general, 4% had moderate depression. Less than one in five fathers who were depressed sought help, even though a third of them considered harming themselves. While women in the UK are often asked a number of questions that screen for postnatal depression (which affects up to 13% of women), the mental health of fathers is rarely assessed.
The lead author of the Swedish newspaper, Elisa Psouni, of the psychology department at the University of Lund, says that the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) used for both women and men is not as accurate in picking up father’s depression . Her research showed higher levels of depression in fathers, because it was added in a score that reflected more on “male” symptoms of depression, such as agitation, anger, irritability, working longer and drinking too much.
Depression in fathers can increase, not only because researchers are looking for it, but because more new fathers are struggling. Psouni believes that fathers are increasingly confronted with the same dilemmas that mothers do – including trying to combine parenthood with work. Fathers who became depressed often had external pressure, such as work difficulties, and if their partner was depressed, their own risk of depression doubled. Lack of sleep, twins and conflict in the relationship can all contribute.
Fathers who feel they are struggling and partners, family members or friends who feel an increase in irritability and anxiety in a man in the first year of parenthood (paternal depression is more spread over the first 12 months) should have the possibility of paternal postnatal consider depression.