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Mental health researchers not engaging men says study

A new review by researchers at the University of Newcastle (Australia) has found that men are under-represented in mental health studies.

The aim of the review was to quantify the number of men involved in randomised trials of psychotherapy or lifestyle behaviour change targeting depression. Results found men represented 26% of participants in 110 eligible articles compared to 73% women.

The researchers concluded that programs that are specifically designed for and appeal to men are urgently required to better understand men’s preferences and understand what prompts help-seeking in men specifically.

Without such evidence-based programs, men’s mental health will perpetually fall short of policy consideration, clinical attention, and required funding, they say.

The researchers acknowledged that lower rates of help-seeking in men may be attributed to the lack of engaging, relevant or accessible mental health treatments.

Australian research has shown that men will engage in treatment when it is accessible, appropriate, and engaging. Despite this, many services fail to consider gender and structural barriers, such as time and resources, and unappealing service environments.

The researchers also found that male-specific psychometric such as the Masculine Depression Scale and Masculine Depression Risk Scale that have been designed to detect externalising symptoms of depression common in men, are yet to be adopted into mainstream research practices.

The review is believed to be the first to study quantify the number of men involved in psychotherapy and lifestyle interventions targeting depression.

The research found that recommendations for large-scaled controlled trials testing tailored treatments for men were made over 15 years ago, but the representation of men in depression trials has not increased over the past decade.

The current review found no studies testing interventions that were specifically designed for men, or studies testing standard interventions in male-only environments. In contrast, 19 studies used completely female samples.

Perhaps most worryingly, the review found that no attempts were made to increase the involvement of men (e.g., through targeted recruitment) and only 10 studies suggested that the lack of male participants was a limitation.

The review highlighted how this lack of concern about the underrepresentation of men in mental health research could be seen as an example of ‘male gender-blindness’, where men’s health and social needs are overlooked.

Further Reading:

Male involvement in randomised trials testing psychotherapy or behavioural interventions for depression: a scoping review

Is lifestyle change the key to men's mental health? 

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