Study says Men More Likely to Have Post Break-Up Mental Health Issues

Dr. Oliffe and his team at UBC’s Men’s Health Research Program talked to 47 men about how they had to deal with an intimate partner relationship breakup.

Men tended to downplay problems when they were in a relationship, which caused the relationship to break down even more.

Breakups are hard. For some people, getting over the fact that they and their partner can’t ever get back together is a painful process that may take years.

A new study has found that men who break up are more likely to have mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and suicide. The study was written in Social Science and Medicine: Qualitative Research in Health.

Most men started or got worse with mental illness symptoms when they were in a bad relationship, says the study’s lead author, Dr. John Oliffe, a Canada Research Chair and UBC professor of nursing who studies men’s mental health.

He said that men separated from their spouses were four times more likely to kill themselves. He also said that men who had troubled relationships, as well as separation and divorce, had a hard time with their mental health.

Dr. Oliffe and his team at UBC’s Men’s Health Research Program talked to 47 men about how they had to deal with the breakup of an intimate partner relationship. When they were in a relationship, men tended to downplay problems, which caused the relationship to break down even more. This stereotyped masculinity plays a role in how men react to a broken relationship.

Why is This?

For example, many men didn’t know how to talk about or solve problems in a relationship, so they didn’t reach out for help. Most of the men in the study were dealing with changes in their relationships, like grief, parenting, or infidelity. Their main goal was to avoid conflict.

This isn’t the only thing the study found. Men in distress after a breakup used alcohol and other substances to deal with their feelings of anger, sadness, shame, and guilt.

This is on top of the massive uncertainty about what life would be like if you didn’t have a lot of time with your kids, money, or social connections.

COVID-19 public health restrictions can make people more isolated and disrupt their lives, leading to more alcohol and drug use at home and more conflict, worsening people’s mental health, Oliffe said.

On the bright side, the study found that after a relationship broke up, men used various resources to help with their mental health.

Help-seeking efforts by these men were wide-ranging and included individual or solo efforts like exercise, reading, and self-care, said Gabriela Montaner, the project lead and co-author of the article. Other men used existing networks, tried to reach out to support groups, or went to therapy.

For services, she said that while men are more likely to wait until things get worse before getting help, they put in a lot of time and effort to move on and understand how they played a role in the breakup.

We need to think of men’s mental health promotion in a new way that includes self-help, informal resources, and male peer group services, as well as professional services, she added.

For the longest time, we had used divorce and separation as demographic data when we looked at the risk factors for men’s mental illness and suicide.

The results of this study give scientists important context and direction for getting upstream to help men build better relationships.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.