Research shows new fathers are under pressure and at risk of experiencing distress

10 October 2015

Beyond Blue has released research revealing four out of five new dads feel the need to be “the rock” for their families after the birth of their child, and that half of new fathers believe this expectation causes them to experience stress and anxiety.

The findings are part of a research paper funded with donations from the Movember Foundation titled Healthy Dads? The challenge of being a new father, which examined experiences of psychological distress in new fathers, barriers that stop them from seeking help and better ways to communicate with and support new dads.

The research included an online survey with 1,531 new and experienced fathers across Australia, as well as focus groups and interviews with fathers, mothers and clinical experts.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • 56% of new dads did not seek information or support from any source during stressful times.

  • 39% of first-time fathers experienced high levels of psychological distress in the first year of their child’s life.

  • In the face of this high risk for depression, 45% of dads were not aware that men could experience postnatal depression (PND) as well as women, and 43% of first-time dads saw anxiety and depression after having a baby as a sign of weakness.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said these findings show new dads feel significant pressure to be ‘strong’ and provide financial and emotional support, with psychological distress often seen as the equivalent of being weak.

“With so many men feeling the need to be the rock for their family, it’s no surprise many reported that their feelings and experiences were less important than their partners. Worryingly, almost half of the men surveyed didn’t understand that PND can affect men as well as women,” she said.

“The relationship between the parents of a newborn is critical, with fathers tending to rely on their partners for advice and direction, but couples who have planned ahead together are better prepared for changes to their relationship after the birth of a child.

“I encourage new dads and their partners to check out Beyond Blue’s information and resources for tips on looking after yourself and your partner after the arrival of a new baby, such as talking to friends who are already fathers, making time for exercise or relaxing, and nurturing your relationship by spending quality time with your partner at least once a week, and talking to each other every day.”

Paul Villanti, Executive Director of the Movember Foundation said the research highlights the need to support men at such a critical time in their lives and reinforces the importance of encouraging them to talk.

“The work the Movember Foundation funds, including this research about new dads, works to strengthen the social networks of men and get them feeling comfortable to talk about significant life events, such as becoming a new father,” he said.

Beyond Blue will release several new initiatives in the next year to provide new dads with the knowledge, tools and support to increase resilience during the transition into fatherhood. These will also be funded with donations from the Movember Foundation.

Beyond Blue’s Dad’s Handbook: A guide to the first 12 months is available here 


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