Harvard Men's Health Watch

Depression: Often overlooked but important for men

Everyone feels "blue" or "low" from time to time. It's a normal, healthy reaction to the disappointments, losses, and separations that occur in every life. But it's one thing to be down in the dumps, quite another to be depressed. Sadness is normal, but depression is a major illness.

Depression prevents pleasure, saps energy, and interferes with daily life; it can also lead to heart disease and other medical problems. Because depression has many faces, it can be hard to recognize, especially in men, who often make the mistake of thinking of it as a "woman's problem." It's a shame to overlook the diagnosis, because while it is true that depression is more common in women than men, American men face a 12% lifetime risk of depression, and they are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Once depression is diagnosed, it can respond well to treatment.

Who gets depressed?

Anyone can, and many of us do. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 15 million Americans will suffer from depression sometime this year. Over the course of a lifetime, one in seven of us will have at least one bout of depression. The illness can occur at any age, sometimes without warning, other times after a life stress or medical illness.

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