Opinion: Depression – men far more at risk than women in deprived areas

Deprivation affects men and women differently, writes Olivia Remes, PhD candidate at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, with men more likely to experience depression.

Depression is a major cause of disability around the world, and if left untreated, can lead to substance abuse, anxiety and suicide.

Major depressive disorder is a particular form of the condition which affects many people, potentially causing loss of pleasure in activities that once used to bring joy. It can also lead to feelings of worthlessness, imbalances such as oversleeping or insomnia, and trigger thoughts of suicide. This is the condition we examined during our new study, which showed that living in a deprived area can lead to major depressive disorder in men, but not in women.

Before explaining these findings, it is important to provide some further background on this condition. There are certain factors which can place you at increased risk for major depression. Being diagnosed with a serious chronic ailment, such as diabetes or cancer, now or in the past, can increase your risk for it. As can experiences of trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, or being raised in a dysfunctional family in which there was a high degree of marital discord.

These, however, are all individual factors – or personal circumstances – which can negatively affect your mental health. And most of the research on depression has indeed focused on such personal factors. But there are characteristics beyond the level of the individual – such as attributes of the communities in which we live – that can also have a profound effect on our mental well-being.

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