Depression among new fathers more common than first thought

By Doug Bennett • Published: January 4th, 2018
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Depression among new mothers is a well-known condition. New research suggests depression among new fathers is more common than previously believed — and that it is not easily detected.

A study of 447 new fathers by Swedish researchers found that new fathers are not screened for depression, although previous studies discovered that just over 8 percent of them were dealing with depression. In some countries, all new mothers are evaluated for depression and 10 to 12 percent of them are affected in the first year after giving birth.

Researchers also found depression isn’t as easy to spot among new fathers. One scale typically used to identify depression in men is not precise for those who have just become fathers. That means statistics may not show the true extent of depression among that group. One popular screening method doesn’t capture depression symptoms that are common in men, such as restlessness, lack of self-control, irritation and a low tolerance for stress.

Among the study participants, one-third of the depressed fathers had considered hurting themselves, but few had been in contact with a health care professional. Among those who were moderately to severely depressed, 83 percent had not told anyone about their issue.

Other studies have shown men are often reluctant to seek help for mental health issues or depression. That, researchers said, makes it unlikely they would admit to depression during a time when they are supposed to be happy.

The hope? That the findings will lead to better screening methods for men — and a chance to help them enjoy this exciting new chapter of their lives.