Depression, developmental obstacles, and masculine identity in older Caucasian men

Jonathan P. M. Hall (2008)

The purpose of this study was to investigate the interplay between masculine identity, developmental factors, and depression in older white men. A qualitative methodology, Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (Smith & Osborn, 2003), was utilized to explore the participants' subjective experience with these phenomena. Six Caucasian men, whose ages ranged from 65-83 years, participated in semi-structured interviews. All participants were diagnosed with a mood disorder and were receiving treatment. Data analysis generated themes that reflected the participants' perceptions of masculinity, experience with developmental obstacles, manifestations of depression, and treatment related experiences. The findings suggested that participants identified with the traditional masculine ideology during midlife, that they perceived developmental obstacles associated with later life (e.g., retirement, loss of autonomy) to have both contributed to their depression and compromised their sense of masculinity, and that they endorsed traditional symptoms of depression. Cumulatively, the results suggested that the psychological adjustment to developmental challenges in later life was associated with compromised ego-integrity, exacerbated depression, and gender role conflicts for these men. Fortunately, participants also reported that treatment and/or other positive social experiences since retirement helped to alleviate depression, strengthen ego-integrity, and transform the participants' sense of masculinity. These findings have significant implications for practitioners working with depressed elderly men. Specifically, the findings can help improve upon the detection and identification of depression among older men, as well as facilitate the development of more effective treatment strategies for this population.