Men and mental health
In England, around 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem.1 However, men may be reluctant to seek support for their mental health or disclose mental health problems to loved ones. 2
While many of the same difficulties are experienced by both men and women, some difficulties and influences on mental health may be especially relevant for men.
Societal Expectations and Traditional Gender Roles
Societal Expectations, that is, the ways in which men and women have been traditionally expected to behave may play a role in mental health. For men, societal expectations about how men “should” behave and what masculinity is includes the expectation that men be the breadwinners of their family, and that they display what have traditionally been perceived as masculine traits like strength, stoicism, dominance, and control.
While wanting to feel, and feeling, strong and in control are not inherently negative things, some research suggests that a reliance on these traditional ideals as what it means to be “a man” may negatively impact men’s mental health 3, 4, 5
The research on this suggests that behaving in a way that conforms to these expectations, specifically expectations of self-reliance, and power over others is associated with increased distress and poorer mental health4. Some research also suggests that men who feel as though they are unable speak openly about emotions may be less able to recognise symptoms of mental health problems in themselves, and less likely to reach out for support 3.
In England, men have been found to be less likely to access psychological therapies than women, with males making up only 36% of referrals to Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) .6 Men may also be less likely to disclose their mental health issues to family members or friends2, and more likely to use potentially harmful coping methods such as drugs or alcohol in response to distress5. However, there is research to suggest that men will seek and access help when they feel that the help being offered meets their preferences, and is easily accessed, meaningful, and engaging3.
Crime and imprisonment
Men make up the vast majority of the prison population7 and with high rates of mental health problems and increasing rates of self-harm observed in prisons 8,9,, men in the prison system are a group in need of increasing support for their mental health.
In 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain, of these 75% were males10. Suicide represents the largest cause of death for men under 5011.
Higher rates of suicide are also found in minority communities including gay men, war veterans, men from BAME backgrounds, and those with low incomes.12 One group that may be particularly vulnerable to death by suicide are middle-aged men from lower socio-economic backgrounds.5 This may be due to the interaction of a range of complexfactors that include: socioeconomic hardship, unemployment and underemployment, relationship breakdown, and lack of social support, all of which are common risk factors for suicide5,13. Further insights about risk factors for this group can be found on the Samaritan’s website.
Organisations that can help
If you need support, or want to learn more about men’s mental health, the below organisations are sources of further information and advice.
We need your help
This November we are focusing on men's mental health. Please donate so we can continue to carry out research that takes into account men's mental health needs.
- McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf
Mental Health Foundation (2016). Survey of people with lived experience of mental health problems reveals men less likely to seek medical support. Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/survey-people-lived-experience-ment...
Seidler, Z.E., Dawes, A.J., Rice, S.M., Oliffe, J.L., & Dhillon, H.M. (2016). The role of masculinity in men’s help-seeking for depression: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 49:106-118. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735816300046
Wong, J.Y., Ho, M.R., Wang, S.Y., & Miller, I.S.K. (2016). Meta-analyses of the relationship between conformity to masculine norms and mental health-related outcomes. Journal of Counselling Psychology,
Wylie, C., Platt, S., Brownlie, J., Chandler, A., Connolly, S., Evans, R… Scourfield, J. (2012). Men, suicide, and society: Why disadvantaged men in mid-life die by suicide. Samaritans. Retrieved from: https://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/press/Men%...
Mens Mental Health (2017). Key data: mental health. Retrieved from https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health
Men’s Mental Health (2017). Key data: mental health. Retrieved from https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health
Paul Goggins, minister for prisons and probation speaking in a debate on prisons and mental health, Hansard, 17th March 2004, cited in Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, London: Prison Reform Trust, (2006)
Ministry of Justice (2018) Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales: Deaths in Prison Custody to December 2017 Assaults and Self-harm to September 2017. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...
Office for National Statistics (2017). Suicides in the UK: 2016 registrations. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations#suicides-in-the-uk
Public Health England. (2017). Chapter 2: Major causes of death and how they have changed. Health Profile for England 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-profile-for-england/ch...
Office of the Surgeon General (US); National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (US). Washington (DC): US Department of Health & Human Services (US); 2012 Sep.
World Health Organisation (2012). Public Health Action for the Prevention of Suicide. Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/75166/?sequence=1