Depression, anxiety on the rise for male employees

Data has found women disproportionally bear the emotional brunt of COVID-19. But new research conducted over the last couple of months finds that men’s mental health is declining and is–in some cases–on par with or worse than that of women.

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Men’s risk of depression is up 69% (154% greater risk than in February) and their risk of general anxiety is up 55% (66% greater risk than in February), according to results of Total Brain’s latest Mental Health Index. The index, compiled in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute, is based on 500 anonymized assessments randomly selected among thousands of Total Brain assessments taken each week.

Between September and October, the risk of PTSD increased by 68% (74% greater risk than in February) among working men, while focus declined 76%. The data show men’s mental health risks are nearing levels not seen since the onset of the pandemic.

“The impact of the pandemic on mental health is starting to even out across the gender gap,” says Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. “While men may have been less impacted environmentally over the last eight months, their passive approach to coping may be catching up with them as the pandemic endures.”

Related: Employers are making mental health strides; Why they shouldn’t let up

Total Brain CEO Louis Gagnon says that when it comes to dealing with stress, men tend to focus on fixing problems, as opposed to women who try to change their internal response to stressors. Although the problem-focused approach is often successful, it doesn’t work when the source of the stress–like the pandemic–can not be eliminated.

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The new data is proof that employers need to continue to focus on their mental health efforts, experts say.

Related: 10 strategies to improve employees’ mental health

Although many organizations have been making strides in helping employees cope with COVID-related stress and depression, it’s vital that employers maintain a sharp focus on employees’ wellbeing as the pandemic continues.

“Workplaces should use this uncertain time to start prioritizing employees’ mental wellbeing by providing critical support now while incorporating and maintaining best practices for workplaces that prioritize mental health and neurodiversity,” says Garen Staglin, chairman of One Mind at Work. “Employers should see this latest data and understand that all of their employees–men and women alike–are suffering from the pandemic.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.