Women have sudden and serious hormonal changes after childbirth, so it makes sense that many suffer from post-partum depression. Throw in the major life-changing circumstances that new mothers experience—being on maternity leave, loss of sleep, isolation—and it becomes clear that both physical and circumstantial factors would create a very stressful time in the first few years of motherhood.
Obviously we can rule out the hormonal issues that women face, but new dads also face new challenges and fairly drastic lifestyle changes as well. Their partners are suddenly absorbed in taking care of a newborn, and fathers traditionally consider the financial well-being of the family to be primarily their responsibility. Fathers may also face sleep disruption, and increasingly modern dads are more involved in the day-to-day care of their children.
In an article published in February in the online edition of Maternal and Child Health Journal, a team led by Micheal Weitzman, M.D, professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine found that of the factors they studied, paternal unemployment was the greatest predictor of depression in new fathers, followed by maternal depression.[iii]
It is predictable then that new dads without jobs or trying to cope with their partners’ post-partum depression will be prone to depression. (I would suggest that under-employment would be a likely risk factor as well.) This is valuable information for family doctors or pediatricians to keep in mind when interacting with new parents.
While the previous study was primarily concerned with the predictably negative impact of fathers’ depression on children, it seems to me that we should be concerned about paternal depression anyway, not only for its impact on the family but also because depressed fathers deserve to have their mental health considered as important too.
[iii] Grace Rattue. “Fathers With Depression – Who Might Benefit From Screening?.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Feb. 2012. Web.
28 Feb. 2012. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/242245.php>