Emotion Restriction and Discrimination Increase Depression in Minority Men

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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  • Tina.counsellormelbourne

    June 16th, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    the study only proves that keeping to oneself emotional burdens can have negative effects upon the individual no matter the gender, age, or race is. it never hurts to have a small talk with someone every now and then to help you remove some emotional baggage that you’ve been carrying for awhile now.

  • Andre

    June 16th, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    Keeping things inside yourself is never good.I used to do that in the past and it was hard really hard.Talking to a friend was out of the question keeping up with the masculinity factor but really talking to someone and speaking about things troubling to you to a confidante is always a stress buster and helps you relieve as I have come to realize.

  • russell

    June 17th, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    men are generally averse to seeking help.and yes a lot of it comes from the wrong notion that real men are tough and never need any help.

    everybody needs help.even a lion needs some care when it’s hurt.we need to see the practicality of the situation rather than be caught up with wrong theories from centuries ago.

  • Trey

    June 18th, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    The norms of society, black or white, are set up to be very restrictive against men when it comes to giving them the freedom to express what they are feeling on the inside. I think that most people still expect that males are not supposed to show their emotions, that they are supposed to hold all of that on the inside and then deal with it on their own and not in some way that will show the world what they are feeling. But keeping things on the inside is no good for anyone, and add to this the sheer amount of other pressure that men feel daily, and this is the perfct storm for increased rates of depression and suicide. I think that our society has got to ease up on men a little, let them see that it’s ok to show their emotions,and to allow them to not feel afraid of being seen wearing those emotions on ther sleeves.

  • ravi

    June 18th, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Coming from a group considered a minority here in the US I can tell you that the pressure to measure up feels really intense, and when you don’t feel like you can meet those standards it becomes pretty tough to deal with. And the thing is that you want to talk to someone who has experienced the same thing but there are very few men who are willing to talk about it.

  • Holt

    June 19th, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    It is mentioned that treatment for these men should be life course specific- shouldn’t every treatment path for any patient be life course specific?

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