Rates of depression among African-American men are significantly lower than those found in African-American women, yet the suicide rates of African-American men are higher. This disparity caused Wizdom Powell Hammond, Ph.D., of the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of North Carolina to explore possible causes. Hammond recently conducted a study that looked at how adhering to masculine norms affected rates of depression among African-American men. Hammond wanted to determine if these men were underrepresented because they avoided help-seeking. Men who hold themselves to the masculine ideal of emotional restriction may internalize their feelings, especially feelings of stress, and avoid help-seeking for mental health issues such as depression.
Factors that influence depression in minority individuals include socioeconomic conditions, violence, substance abuse, and discrimination. However, these factors have been under-studied in relation to depression in African-American men. Therefore, Hammond surveyed 674 African-American men and analyzed their levels of psychological stress, discrimination, adherence to masculine norms, self-reliance, and depression. He found that the men who experienced racial prejudice were more likely to be depressed than those who did not, regardless of their age. However, men under the age of 40 were at increased risk of depression if they had high levels of emotional restriction. For men over 40, self-reliance was directly related to positive mental health and less depression.
The results of this study demonstrate that African-American men who experience prejudice on a daily basis are more likely to have symptoms of depression when they restrict their emotions. This suggests that the men who adhere to traditional male norms of being strong and not showing vulnerability are most at risk for internalizing behaviors that could result in depression. Hammond believes these findings could be helpful to clinicians who work with this segment of the population. He added, “Interventions designed to reduce African American men’s depression instigated by racism should be life-course specific and address masculine role norms that encourage emotion restriction.”
Hammond, W. P. (2012). Taking it like a man: Masculine role norms as moderators of the racial discrimination-depressive symptoms association among African American men. American Journal of Public Health 102.S2, S232-S241.
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