Depression in fathers, as well as mothers, has an impact on children despite mothers often being the focus when treating adolescent depression, a study suggests. The University College London (UCL) report looked at 14,000 families in the UK and Ireland.It said both parents had a role to play in preventing teenage depression. The researchers encouraged more fathers to seek help for depressive symptoms by speaking to their doctor.
Dr Gemma Lewis from UCL, who led the study, said because mothers tended to spend more time with their children, there was often a tradition of “mother-blaming” when treating mental health issues in offspring. But she said the research showed that “we should be bringing fathers into the picture more”. Dr Lewis added: “If you’re a father who hasn’t sought treatment for your depression, it could have an impact on your child.
“We hope that our findings could encourage men who experience depression to speak to their doctor about it.” The study is based on two large samples of the general population - 6,000 families from Ireland and nearly 8,000 from the UK - in which parents and children, at the ages of seven, nine and 13-14, filled in questionnaires about their feelings. Children were asked about their emotional symptoms and parents also answered questions on their feelings, which were measured against a depression scale.
The results showed a link between depressive symptoms in fathers and similar symptoms in their adolescent children that was similar in size to the effect of a mother’s depression. Many mental health problems, including depression, start at about the age of 13, the researchers said, and although depression in mothers was already known to increase the risk, the influence of fathers’ wellbeing was a new finding.
Courtesy: BBC health