Date: 1st March 2001

Depressed? That’ll be all down to the ‘mancession’ as more women become breadwinners. Men face a depressing future as their stiff upper lips start to crumble and more women become breadwinners, psychiatrists predict.

They claim the changing economies of countries such as the UK and U.S. have led to a ‘mancession’, with many men losing their jobs and fewer traditional employment opportunities.

Depressive disorders among men are expected to increase in the next few years – and it could mean men’s rates of depression catch up with those of women, who are traditionally more likely to seek help.

Dr Boadie Dunlop, of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, said: ‘Women are almost twice as likely to develop major depressive disorder in their lifetime as men. But we believe this may well change in the coming decades.’

Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr Dunlop and his colleague Tanja Mletzko  suggest two major shifts are already underway in Western societies which could increase rates of depression among men.

The first change, they argue, is that society is encouraging men to discuss their feelings more and so they are no longer displaying the ‘stiff upper lip’ which stopped them from sharing their problems.

At the same time, there is ‘profound restructuring’ of traditional male jobs such as manufacturing, which are being done by cheaper labour abroad or made obsolete through technological advances.

Dr Dunlop said: ‘Dubbed by some the “mancession”, the economic downturn has hit men particularly hard because of its disproportionate effect on traditional male industries such as construction and manufacturing.

‘Furthermore, Western women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners.

‘Compared to women, men attach greater importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families, and men’s failure to fulfil the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict.

‘Western men will face a difficult road in the 21st century.’

But Professor Cary Cooper, from the Lancaster University Management School, suggested that losing the stiff upper lip could improve men’s physical and mental health.

He said: ‘As a generalisation, men are less emotionally intelligent than women and have not traditionally been encouraged to share their feelings.

‘Women talk about their problems more and even though they’re more likely to be treated for depression, it doesn’t lead to poor health outcomes like heart disease.

‘You could argue if men do become more open they may have better outcomes as a result.’