Research projects

The impact of pregnancy and early fatherhood on Australian men’s mental health

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Proudly supported by The Movember Foundation.

Principal researcher

Dr Liana Leach1
Dr Sarah Olesen1
Dr Kate Fairweather-Schmidt2
Professor Andrew Mackinnon3

Institution

1 Australian National University
2 University of Adelaide
3 Orygen Youth Health Research Centre

Funding

$108,073 – This project is funded through donation from the Movember Foundation

Award type

National Priority Driven Research Program

Project completion year

2014

Main messages

  • The reported prevalence of paternal perinatal depression and anxiety varies greatly, ranging between (0.7-46.2%) for depression [1] and 3.9-16.3% for anxiety (Study 1 and Study 2). Prevalence estimates fluctuate considerably depending on the characteristics of the sample population, the measures used, and the point in time at which screening is undertaken. 
  • Given the variability in prevalence estimates, it is not possible to reliably conclude whether rates of depression and anxiety are greater for expecting and new fathers than men in the general Australian population.
  • Our study using data from the HILDA Survey showed that expecting and new fatherhood are not associated with increases in psychological distress (Study 3).
  • In similar analyses of PATH Survey data, this finding was replicated: expecting and new fatherhood were not associated with increases in anxiety or depression (Study 4).
  • These findings are good news for expecting and new fathers. They highlight the positive mental health aspects of new fatherhood. They suggest that, for most men, fatherhood incurs no increased risk of depression and/or anxiety.
  • These findings also suggest that prevention and intervention resources might best be targeted towards men with additional risk factors, such as a partner with poor perinatal mental health, rather than at all perinatal men. 
  • What are the key characteristics of men who are at increased risk of poorer mental health during the perinatal period? Study 2 of this report found that men are more vulnerable if they have a partner with poor mental health, and/or they are unhappy in their intimate partner relationship.
  • Objectives for future research in this area include: a) using data from representative, population-based samples, b) using well-matched comparison groups of non-fathers (to compare with fathers), c) longitudinal research extending both prior to and post the perinatal period, and d) acquiring data from both partners (‘dyad data’).

Download the final report

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