Depression and Work

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Men More Depressed when Partner Works 

LONDON. Middle aged men whose partners spend a great deal of time working outside of the home may be at a greater risk for depression, according to a new study.

Researchers at Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London analyzed data on more than 10,000 middle-aged men and women who worked civil servant jobs and found one partner's employment status could have a significant effect on the other's psychological well-being.

Specifically, the study found middle-aged men whose partners stayed home or worked only part-time or less were better able to cope with stress and less likely to get depressed than men of similar age with partners working longer hours outside the household.

Men whose partners went from caring for the family to working full-time also showed higher likelihood of depression.

"The interviews suggested that men with a partner working part-time or not working were able to access neighborhood resources, friendship and civic engagement for example," co-researcher Dr. Vicky Cattell told United Press International. "Frequently they were able to do this through the activity of their wives."

However, for women whose partner stayed home or worked part-time, "this did not appear to happen," she added.

Women, co-researcher Dr. Stephen Stansfeld told UPI, "tend to be better at socializing" than men.

Only the study participants were interviewed about their work status, lifestyle and feelings. Their partners were not interviewed, Stansfeld said, so it is not known how they felt about their household roles, whether they worked or not.

However, of the female study participants interviewed, the groups most prone to depression, researchers report, were women who reported little control over their environment either at work or at home, men who reported minimal control at work, and men who felt powerless at home.

The study also found a sense of control over one's work environment -- for both sexes -- had great influence over the person's vulnerability to depression. Frustration over lack of promotion, feeling overwhelmed by demands and a feeling of little freedom or flexibility on the job all contributed to risk for depression.

"I really don't want to give the impression that women shouldn't be working," Stansfeld said. Many couples, particularly in Western nations, both work and are well adjusted to that lifestyle, he added.

Also, this study focused specifically on middle-aged men, so it is possible the outcomes could be different for other groups, particularly younger people who have grown up in a culture where both partners worked outside the home.

Dr. Tina Tessina, a licensed psychotherapist and a private practice family therapist in Long Beach, Calif. agreed.

"I don't think that's all men, by any means," Tessina told UPI. The men interviewed for this study, she said, sound like their too emotionally dependent on their wives.

However, Tessina added, it's true that maintaining social ties "have been women's areas of responsibility, traditionally, for a long, long time. Men still haven't acquired those skills ... the skills of maintaining emotional connections."

An individual's emotional stability is "everyone's own responsibility," Tessina said. "If you put it on somebody else, then you wind up going into a spiral." 

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