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Men's Health

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Young Dads at Risk of Depressive Symptoms: Study

But experts stress findings don't mean fatherhood at an early age dooms men to clinical depression


While that 68 percent rise sounds big, it is an average for the group, Garfield said. And for many men, even that much of a change would not be enough to push them into clinical depression.

"Many men started off with very low [scores], so even with that increase they probably wouldn't screen positive for depression," Garfield noted. "But some would."

Why do some men get depressed after the baby arrives? "We really don't understand the reasons yet," Garfield said.

With new moms, experts suspect that depression arises from a mix of stress and the biological changes that come with pregnancy and childbirth. Men's bodies aren't affected by fatherhood, but their lives definitely change, noted Eric Lewandowski, of the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

New fathers may feel added financial strain or stress on their marriage, for example, said Lewandowski, who was not involved in the study.

"The transition can be a tough one," he said, "especially around the age at which these men became fathers -- in their mid-20s."

It's not clear, Lewandowski noted, whether the findings might be different for men who become fathers in their 30s or beyond.

Both he and Garfield said the results call attention to fathers' mental health. "Parenting is a team sport, and understanding how men transition into fatherhood is important, too," Garfield said.

There are no guidelines on when or how to screen new fathers for depression. But more research into the issue could change that, Garfield said.

For now, Lewandowski said it's important for new parents to be prepared for the reality of having a child. "It's not all roses. It's tough," he noted.

On the other hand, he said, there's "the joy of having a child," and it's hard for a scientific study to measure that and "weigh" it against the less positive aspects of parenting. And maybe for most moms and dads, Lewandowski said, the joy and the difficulties can "co-exist."

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