Deprived areas and male depression

16 December 2019

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Living in poor conditions is linked to depression in men, but anxiety in women...

Men living in deprived areas are more likely to suffer from depression, but the same is not true for women, a new study has revealed.

According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, “men in deprived areas were 51% more likely to have depression than men living in more affluent regions.”

Olivia Remes, who led the study, says that most previous work on this subject has focused on linking mental health to personal circumstances rather than living environment. “And there is no research out there that has done this from a gendered perspective.”

The new study used information collected from over 10,000 women and 8,000 men, aged of 40 and living in England, who had been recruited into a larger project investigating how diet and living conditions are connected to cancer.

“I used the public UK census to determine levels of deprivation; and to determine whether or not someone had depression, we used rigourous structured questionnaires,” explains Remes.

An area was classified as “deprived” if it had high levels of unemployment, low car ownership,  low home ownership and overcrowding.

In a similar study two years ago, Remes found that women living in deprived areas are at high risk of anxiety, rather than the depression she has since detected among men, suggesting living conditions may affect the two genders differently.

“Taken together our findings show that genders are preferentially affected by the environment in which they live, and the way that they respond to stressors,” says Remes.

Anxiety and depression are mental health conditions that are frequently linked, although many have one but not the other. “Depression is characterised more by low mood, loss of pleasure and feelings of sadness, whereas anxiety centres more around fear, restlessness, arousal.”

What is still unclear is why men are more at risk for depression, and women more vulnerable to anxiety under these circumstances.

“It is possible that many men still feel a primary responsibility to provide for and support their families; and when they live in a deprived area, they are less able to do that,” Remes speculates.

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