White Men Have Less Life Stress, But Are More Prone to Depression Because of It

Erin Schumaker, Huffington Post, September 24, 2015

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{snip} White men are more likely to face depression associated with stressful life events than black men or women of any race, according to a recently published study in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

This is an especially interesting finding because, as might be expected, white men reported having fewer stressful life events than black men. These events were defined as poor health, financial stress, issues with employment, marital or family problems, problematic gambling behavior, police harassment and being the victim of a crime or discrimination.

“White men were experiencing the least stress in their lives,” lead study author Dr. Shervin Assari, a research investigator at the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry, told The Huffington Post. “They don’t get a lot of it and they are not used to it, so they are more prone to its harmful effects.”

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“They don’t learn how they should mobilize their resources from previous stressful experiences,” Assari said. “Whom should they talk to? How should they act? They have not learned to respond to stress to the same level as black men.”

In a way, the study hits on a sticky subject. Depression is a serious and often debilitating mental health condition, and white men who are suffering from depression should be supported, not stigmatized.

On the other hand, the strong association between a small number of stressful life events and depression among white men speaks volumes about white privilege. The world treats white men well–so well, in fact, that infrequent negative life circumstances mentally harm them.

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The study, which included almost 6,000 adults from around the country, controlled for income, education, employment and marital status. It did not find the same stress-depression correlation among women that it did among men.

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White men are also at a high risk for suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that white men have the highest suicide rates of any demographic, accounting for 70 percent of all suicides committed in the United States in 2013.

Of course, depression isn’t always linked to stressful life events. Moreover, a strong association between stress and depression doesn’t mean that white men as a group are more likely to suffer from depression than women. According to the National Comorbidity Survey, the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder among men is 13 percent. Among women, that number rises to a full 20 percent who will suffer from the disorder over the course of their lifetimes.

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