Men Underrepresented in Psychological Research Studies

Research shows that men are far less likely to seek therapy than women when confronted with anxiety, depression, anger or other psychological problems. Although this clearly suggests that many men are being undertreated for significant mental health issues, this dynamic also affects the field of research. C. Edward Watkins, Jr. Ph.D., of the University of North Texas, recently asked an essential question, “How many men have actually been involved in short-term and long-term psychodynamic treatment research?” Watkins looked at 86 separate studies from six reviews over the last ten years to find an answer. “Those six reviews/meta-analyses were selected for scrutiny because they covered a broad spectrum of disorders (mental and physical), have received considerable attention in the medical, psychiatric, and psychological literature, and have appeared in what are well-respected, peer-reviewed medical, psychiatric, or psychoanalytic journals,” said Watkins.

Watkins realized that overall women were represented more than men in clinical studies, 60% versus 40%. Additionally, Watkins noticed that a large portion of the studies that did have male subjects tended to focus on addiction issues, leaving many other psychological treatment studies void of male data. Overall, he found that 11% of the studies had no male participants at all, and 23% of the studies only contained data from six males or less. “We clearly see here both positives and negatives to our picture,” said Watkins. “Male research participants tend to be more difficult to secure than females in psychological research generally; that appears to be no less so for both short-term and long-term psychodynamic treatment research. In our efforts to amass the most complete, fully informed, and ever-informative female and male psychodynamic treatment database upon which to draw, that may well be an enduring problem with which we as researchers will have to continue to struggle and work to creatively address in the decades ahead.”


Watkins, C. E., Jr. (2011, August 29). THE STUDY OF MEN IN SHORT-TERM AND LONG-TERM PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY: A Brief Research Note. Psychoanalytic Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025183

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • allen

    September 9th, 2011 at 9:05 PM

    I have definitely seen how less likely men are to seek help compared to women. I think us as men feel that we should handle problems ourselves and that by seeking medical health we are showing a sign of defeat. I know because this is how I used to feel.

    My general attitude was..
    If you were addicted to something you should use your willpower to stop.
    If you were afraid of something you should face your fear to overcome it.

    While this worked for some stuff, I realized most of the time medical attention is easier, more effective and just plain better. So to any men out there who are facing a problem, just try therapy. It doesn’t make you any less of a man, if anything it makes you more mature for knowing when you need help. If you think its stupid after trying it fine , nobodies making you do it forever, at least you tried it. And besides you might be able to help increase the research available about men in the process.

  • Anna K

    September 10th, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Men are pretty stubborn when it comes to seeking any kind of medical health and treatment. But that has not stopped the medical field from having far more cases studies on men regarding things like heart disease and cancer than they have ever had on women. I am not saying that this is fair, but now they know how women have felt misrepresented and maybe even misunderstood all of these years when it comes to specific health care services.

  • Audrey Knowles

    September 10th, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    The problem as I see it is that men are less forthcoming about suffering from mental problems than women are. If they feel like that in general, they won’t be in any rush to hold their hands up and volunteer to participate in a study. Women talk easily with friends and family about their anxiety, anger and depression. Guys don’t. It’s that simple.

  • W.A

    September 10th, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    @Audrey: I very much wish we did find it easier to talk to friends and family, I do. But guys don’t always get the sympathy that women do. They get laughed at or it’s all one big joke.

    Your friends think you’re a wimp if you admit to being anxious or depressed and tell you to toughen up or stop whining. No wonder guys won’t join in studies. They can’t be sure they will be taken seriously by researchers either.

  • Paul Nicolas

    September 10th, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    Speaking as a man that would be my worst nightmare. It’s hard enough to talk at all to my inner circle about my anxiety/depression issues. I only do it at all because they nag me and I can’t get them to shut up if I don’t throw them a bone by saying I’m doing good or whatever. I sure wouldn’t want them to know I was involved in that kind of thing.

    For one, because they really don’t know how bad my anxiety/depression truly is and I have no intention of telling them. For two, they would always be asking me about the study and awkward questions like how I qualified for it. I don’t need their noseyness in my life.

  • Lance

    September 10th, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    Men seeking therapy is always going to be lower than women seeking therapy mainly because the question of men being STRONG comes into the picture. Although being strong has nothing to do with you having a problem and seeking help,it is often seen as you’re helpless and are seeking help. Hence lesser number of men seek such help. And as far as studies are concerned, well that is up to the researchers to answer. But representation of both the sexes is important for any study in my opinion.

  • Oliver L.

    September 11th, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    I think this fits in with a larger pattern of the psychological sciences not being representative of *most* people, whether because of gender, “race”, class, culture, and so on.

    Anna K I hope you find some way to recognize that ultimately gender relations are not a zero-sum game.

  • erica

    September 11th, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    And I thought they always try to keep the participation of men and women as close to 50:50 as possible…at least for gender-neutral studies…Why don’t they do that?

  • Tyler

    September 12th, 2011 at 4:18 AM

    Men are under represented for a good reason- most of them think that these are things that need to be shoved under the rug and not talked about. Little do they realize the internal damage that they are doing to themselves and to their families by choosing not to talk and take the steps to heal.

  • ET

    September 12th, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    The people in a study should include men and women such that it is representative of the actual percentage of men and women affected by that particular condition or whatever they are studying.Maybe that is why they have more women.I have read many times that more women than men have mental health problems.

  • Brendan O'Neil

    September 12th, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    @PaulNicolas–I hear ya, man! And I can add a number three: I don’t particularly want to be stuck with a placebo either which is what would happen if I ended up in the control group of the study.

    I need meds to keep me stable, not a sugar pill. You don’t get to pick which group you’re in, do you? Unless you do, no way Jose.

  • Gemma

    September 12th, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    How can they even get findings published when there is so little equality reflected in the studies? And how can anyone really take them seriously if the study groups have been so skewed in one direction?

  • Madelyn Walden

    September 12th, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    The above posters have hit the nail on the head. If they don’t go to therapy as often as women then there will be a large divide in the data until the balance is resolved. Now think about how many women go to therapy compared to men and how long it would take to get it balanced out.

  • Mallory

    September 12th, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    This under-representation situation is google to result in a shortage of results in studies and researches when it comes to men.It needs to be paid attention to and fixed ASAP, because the more we delay the more data is missing for men!

  • Patrick Greenberg

    September 14th, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    @Allen: Well said, sir! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I wish willpower was the only cure we ever needed! Then we would all live for 100 years and beyond.

    Medical professionals have 3000 years of knowledge, reflection and wisdom backing them up, plus billions upon trillions of dollars enhancing what they do have. We owe it to ourselves to avail ourselves of that wealth of knowledge and experience the best life we can.

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