Background: The concept of male depression is based on the hypothesis that typical symptoms of depression in men often seem to be masked by non-typical male distress symptoms not considered in common depression inventories. Although there is a large amount of clinical evidence, scientific evidence is still lacking. The study aims at further validating the concept of male depression, by obtaining information on symptoms reported by males, and analyzing the dimensional structure of the Gotland Scale of Male Depression [Rutz, W., 1999. Improvement of care for people suffering from depression: The need for comprehensive education. International Clinical Psychopharmacology 14, 27-33.].
Methods: A community sample of male adolescents aged 18 (n=1004) was asked to complete the WHO-5 Well-being Index [Bech, P., 1998. Quality of life in the psychiatric patient. London: Mosby-Wolfe.] and the Gotland Scale of Male Depression [Rutz, W., 1999. Improvement of care for people suffering from depression: The need for comprehensive education. International Clinical Psychopharmacology 14, 27-33.]. Principal component analysis with promax rotation was calculated to analyze the dimensional structure of the Gotland Scale. Cluster center analyses were used to classify the sample according to the symptoms' characteristics.
Results: General well-being was rather reduced, and 22% of the respondents were seen to be at risk of male depression. There was no evidence for the hypothesis that young males tend to mask their depressive symptoms with distress symptoms. Depressive and male distress symptoms appeared to be mixed in a dominant factor, while male distress symptoms constitute an additional minor factor. A cluster of 38% of those at risk for depression could be identified who reported significantly elevated male distress symptoms. Irritability turned out to be the single item of the Gotland Scale with the highest item-total correlation.
Limitations: Risk of depression was not assessed by an additional depression scale or evaluated by a clinical rating.
Conclusions: Male distress symptoms should be considered when diagnosing depression in men. Further research is needed with respect to comorbidity and differential diagnoses, which should also include bipolar depression.