Crouse Health Online: Wellness is just a click away.
Share Share
  |  Connect with Us: 
large
med
small
Text Size
 

Health News



Young Dads at Risk of Depressive Symptoms, Study Finds

Young Dads at Risk of Depressive Symptoms, Study Finds

04/14/14

MONDAY, April 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Young fathers may be at increased risk of depression symptoms after their baby arrives, all the way through to the child's kindergarten, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that for men who become fathers in their 20s and live with their children, depression symptoms tend to rise during the first five years of the child's life.

Experts stressed that the findings don't mean that young dads are destined to be clinically depressed. The study didn't prove that early fatherhood causes depressive symptoms -- it only showed an association between the two.

"But this does show us a time period where fathers are at increased risk," said lead researcher Dr. Craig Garfield, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

The new research was published online April 14 in Pediatricsand in the May print issue of the journal.

Many studies have looked into the risk of postpartum depression for mothers, but research into fathers' mental health during this period is much newer, Garfield said. Studies so far suggest that 5 percent to 10 percent of new dads develop clinical depression after the baby arrives.

What's more, researchers have found that when fathers are depressed, children tend to have more behavioral problems and weaker reading and language skills.

It's not clear what role dads' depression plays in those problems. But "when parents thrive, children thrive," Garfield said, so both parents' mental health is important.

For the new study, Garfield's team used data from a long-running project that began following more than 20,000 U.S. teens in the 1990s. Every few years, the participants completed a 10-question screening tool on depression symptoms -- asking whether they felt unhappy, tired or disliked, for example.

Of the more than 10,600 young men in the study, one-third had become fathers by the time they were aged 24 to 32. And, Garfield's team found, dads' depression scores showed a clear shift over time.

Among fathers living with their children, depression scores rose by an average of 68 percent over the first five years of their child's life. Fathers who weren't living with their children showed a different trend: Their depression symptoms rose after high school, and then started to decline after they became fathers.

While that 68 percent rise sounds big, it is an average for the group, Garfield said. And for many men, even that much of a change would not be enough to push them into clinical depression.

"Many men started off with very low [scores], so even with that increase they probably wouldn't screen positive for depression," Garfield noted. "But some would."

Why do some men get depressed after the baby arrives? "We really don't understand the reasons yet," Garfield said.

With new moms, experts suspect that depression arises from a mix of stress and the biological changes that come with pregnancy and childbirth. Men's bodies aren't affected by fatherhood, but their lives definitely change, noted Eric Lewandowski, of the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

New fathers may feel added financial strain or stress on their marriage, for example, said Lewandowski, who was not involved in the study.

"The transition can be a tough one," he said, "especially around the age at which these men became fathers -- in their mid-20s."

It's not clear, Lewandowski noted, whether the findings might be different for men who become fathers in their 30s or beyond.

Both he and Garfield said the results call attention to fathers' mental health. "Parenting is a team sport, and understanding how men transition into fatherhood is important, too," Garfield said.

There are no guidelines on when or how to screen new fathers for depression. But more research into the issue could change that, Garfield said.

For now, Lewandowski said it's important for new parents to be prepared for the reality of having a child. "It's not all roses. It's tough," he noted.

On the other hand, he said, there's "the joy of having a child," and it's hard for a scientific study to measure that and "weigh" it against the less positive aspects of parenting. And maybe for most moms and dads, Lewandowski said, the joy and the difficulties can "co-exist."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on depression in men.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

OF INTEREST:
 

Latest News

Crouse Hospital Receives Quality Achievement Award for Exemplary Stroke Care
more >

MedEx Bedside Prescription Delivery Service

Free service offers convenience, patient education at discharge.
more >

Weight Loss Surgery

Is it right for you? Attend a free information seminar held twice monthly.
more >

Quality at Crouse

See how Crouse Hospital strives to provide the best in patient care.
more >

Cheer Up That Special Someone

Say get well or welcome a new arrival with a gift purchased right at Crouse.

more >

Make an Online Donation Now

Your donation of any amount helps support Crouse services & programs in a meaningful way.
more >

Shop Online Now

Say get well, thinking of you or welcome new baby with a unique gift from the Crouse Gift Shop.

more >