men's health
27 May 2021

Men’s Health Month – Insights from ICHAS Student Barry Redmond on the Area of Mental Health

June is Men’s Health Month. The aim of the month is to raise awareness of health issues that can affect men of all ages. One area of focus is mental health. As part of his dissertation ICHAS student, Barry Redmond went into detail on mental health and older men how men perceive happiness differently. He also gave some final thoughts on his own view when it comes to research into the area.

What was your interest in the area of Men’s Mental Health?

My reason for wanting to undertake this research study is that I have always had an interest in the differences in mental illnesses present among the genders.  This interest has been piqued in recent years by what I perceive as a surreptitious furtiveness (Witley, 2017) in the increasing mental anguish and illness experienced by increasing numbers of men, most especially in the western world. 

This observation is traditionally and rather dramatically verified year on year by ever-increasing statistics pertaining to men and their mental health. These daunting figures provide the backdrop for my disbelief as to the almost deafening silence which pervades much of the discourse around this subject.

Hence I wish that my small contribution to the literature pertaining to this topic may afford for the reader a source of material that will hopefully inspire them to realise that there is a problem there in the first instance, and also that they can positively project to a world open to the possibility where all mental health issues are treated the same.

Mental Health and Older Men

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted the likely increase from 15% to 24% between 2015 and 2050, of the number of older people in the world. An interesting statistical forecast when coupled with data mentioned by Gaunt (2020) as she echoes these projections by stating that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures suggest 20% of the population in the United States already has a mental health disorder. These are perturbing trends as masculinity plays a factor in men being less likely to source supports in times of mental distress (Movember. 2019). 

Consequently, the inevitable preponderance of the older men subgroup who finds themselves in that position will also inexorably increase, with the most common mental health issues, currently experienced, being depression and dementia, greatly increasing (gov.uk. 2020). A fact that has been underwritten by the National Health Service (2017) in the UK, who found that 7.7 million or half the adults 55 plus in the UK, have experienced depression (National Health Service. 2017). 

This realisation has prompted organisations such as the WHO (2017) to increase awareness for the general public, about mental wellbeing in older age, by stating that mental health is as important during old age as at any other time of life. For that reason, it is not surprising there is an impetus to provide a coordinated and comprehensive set of plans for implementation, to support older individual’s mental health concerns, which will be a valuable support for men of all ages (World Health Organisation. 2017).

Yet despite this Gaunt (2020) makes an important point that an individual’s age is not negatively disproportionate to their health, and a person’s age does not necessarily mean that their mental health should deteriorate as well. She states that mental ailments and disabilities are not an instinctive part of aging as mental health disorders actually affect younger people more than older people; although older individuals are less likely to seek help (Gaunt, 2020).

Accordingly, and in addition to the fact that older adults are more likely to report a physical condition in preference to a mental illness (Gaunt, 2020), if there was greater awareness among general practitioners (GPs) of elderly peoples mental health – and especially men’s mental wellbeing – when they attend their clinic, then there would be better outcomes for this demographic cohort (Thompsell, 2017). 

Moreover, this realisation is particularly important for men, and especially older men, as they are even less likely than older women of confiding in a professional practitioner with regards to their mental health (Thompsell, 2017).

How Men Perceive Happiness Differently from Women

Taking for example the explanations for the predominance of men problem gamblers it may be advantageous to underline first that men and women experience happiness differently (Dowthwaite, 2020). Women’s happiness index has been declining since the 1990s (Nijhawan, 2017) with this gender having a greater tendency for depression (Mayo Clinic. 2020). This propensity for low mood in women Dowthwaite (2020) states as being exacerbated by the fact that they are marginally not as good problem solvers (specifically visuospatial problem solving (Wei et al 2016)) or as being cognitively adaptable (although acute stress impairs men cognitively more so than women (Shields et al 2016)) as men (Dowthwaite, 2020).

Dowthwaite (2020) posits that as women are more negatively responsive to social rejection (Stroud 2002 cited in Dowthwaite 2020) than men, they are predictably more socially conscious and thereby socially altruistic (Dowthwaite, 2020). 

Yet despite these realisations, Dowthwaite (2020) says women have been socialised and psychologically ordained to express other intense emotions, such as, cheerfulness and distress, which allows for seamless and informal social bonding to develop, and also for the role of principal care provider to grow (Dowthwaite, 2020). Therefore, women are more socially aware and have an added proclivity to gravitate towards and form social networks, which support and promote ethically conscious pursuits (Flaherty, 2017). 

From this, it could be seen that women consequently can be understood to have a tendency for a different perspective of the concept of hedonism (the belief that engaging in pleasurable pursuits is beneficial (Goldhill, 2019)) by indulging in quieter and retiring pleasurable pursuits (for example grooming and self-pampering (Wilson 2019 cited in Goldhill 2019)) in comparison to men’s more outwardly – and potentially – antagonistic displays of pleasure (for example, physical sports and fast cars). 

 

 

What are your Final Thoughts on the areas of Men’s Mental Health?

I have striven to provide for people a review of some of the most up-to-date and recent research material available. By doing so I endeavoured to offer an insight into the areas of men’s mental health and gender issues, within the context of focusing on contemporary society, and thereby the indivisible links which influence their mental health and subsequent outcomes. 

In addition, I have allowed for a sequential review of current research, which I feel allows for a broad remit as an alternative to the more confined and restricted meta-analysis approach, which focuses on one particular area of the subject matter, to the detriment of the many and diverse permutations which influence this topic material.

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