Depression has become an increasingly popular topic of discussion in mainstream media. Whereas before, issues surrounding mental health were misunderstood and seen as taboo, now there are many platforms where mental illness is discussed. However, one of the issues concerning depression is how it affects men and women differently.
Firstly, women have higher instances of reported cases of depression. This can stem from biological reasons such as hormonal fluctuations and genetic mutations that leave women more susceptible to developing depression. The stats may be somewhat misleading as some men do develop depression but are much less likely to seek help for it due to their inability to recognize their emotions clearly.
Whilst the overall internal feelings of depression are the same in both sexes; hopelessness, sadness, apathy, general discontent etc. the way depression is expressed outwardly differs quite a bit. It is becoming increasingly evident that depression in men may not look exactly the same as in women. Men tend to engage in riskier behaviour such as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex or driving recklessly. It is also more likely to show up as anger and irritability in men. For women, anxiety levels and “crying spells” may increase. Women are also more likely to experience substance abuse and eating disorders whilst depressed.
Whilst mood disorders occur in both sexes, they manifest quite differently and may therefore require different ways of assessment or diagnosis. On 30 March 2017, the World Health Organisation made this startling announcement: depression is now the primary cause of disability and ill health worldwide. Moreover, depression can lead to suicide and somewhere in the world, a person dies every 40 seconds in this way. In many countries, including South Africa, about four times more men die by suicide than women. Yet women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. This discrepancy suggests that there are more men who are depressed than statistics show.