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Men and mental health in midlife

A man with his head in his hands

For mental health awareness week we are taking a look at mental health across the life course and consider how our mental health is impacted as we age. The Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week happens every year, and it’s the biggest opportunity for the whole of the UK to come together to focus on getting good mental health. The week aims to tackle stigma and help people understand and prioritise their and others’ mental health.

Midlife can be a challenging time for many men.  The male midlife crisis is often made fun of and stereotypically includes changes in behaviour such as buying a Ferrari, getting a young girlfriend and taking up cycling in Lycra.

However, reduced life satisfaction, which is thought to underlie the ‘midlife crisis’, is only really seen in a minority, probably  only in 1 in 10 of middle-aged adults. This dip in well-being and life satisfaction is most likely the result of an evaluation of life at a crucial point. No longer young, but also not yet old.

Many men measure their worth in terms of their professional success. So, a midlife crisis in men may be centred around their achievements, or around regret about not taking actions to better their careers when they were younger.

There is a sinister side to this time of life and the mid-life crisis. Suicide risk is highest in men between 40 and 49. In fact, in the UK it is the most common cause of death in men under 50. Many men may mask their depression with alcohol, drugs and overwork. Suicide risk is also highest in the poor. Especially with the cost of living rising, many people are feeling the pressure and this can result in poor mental health.

Interventions to help

Many men are less inclined to seek help and support from others when they have poor mental health.

However, these needs have been recognised and there are a number of low cost examples from around the world of initiatives that may have a positive impact on male mental health in mid-life.

  • Men’s Sheds – UK, Australia, Ireland Men’s Sheds encourages people to come together to make, repair and repurpose, supporting projects in their local communities.
  • Therapeutic gardening communities were also found to be beneficial
  • Buddy Up – supporting men in Canada in talking to men to prevent suicide

For more on male mental health and where to go for support please visit the Mental Health Foundation website.