Dads Are Less Likely to Be Depressed If They Have This One Thing

If new dads have this thing, it can lower the risk for depression up to a year, study finds.

We've all heard of postpartum depression—a form of depression that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in eight women in the United States experience after having a baby. And while we typically consider this condition as something unique to mothers, more men than you might expect also report having postpartum depression after their child is born—about 10 percent, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. However, new research suggests that dads are less likely to experience depression if they are able to take paternity leave so they can spend time with their newborn child.

For a study published Sept. 23 in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, a group of psychologists observed 881 ethnically diverse low-income fathers in order to examine the correlation between a father's involvement in early infant parenting and their depressive symptoms during the infant's first year. Over the course of the study, study participants were evaluated based on three measures of parental involvement: time spent with the infant, parent self-efficacy, and material support. In addition, the participants' depressive symptoms were assessed and scored using the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale at one month, six months, and twelve months after the birth.

young father holding baby outside

Based on the data collected and observations made, the researchers concluded that fathers who spent more time with their infants had greater parenting self-efficacy, provided more material support for the baby one month after the birth, and reported significantly lower depressive symptoms when the child was a year old.

"We found that fathers who were more involved with their infants shortly after their birth were less likely to be depressed a year later," study author Olajide N. Bamishigbin Jr., PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, said in a statement.

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According to the researchers, the findings speak to the importance of fathers being allowed the opportunity to spend time with their newborn children and why employers should offer paid paternal leave. The benefits of doing so aren't limited to the father's mental health, but extend to all members of the family.

"In our study, greater early involvement was related to less depression later on. This is very important because, it suggests that, if fathers are involved with their infants early and often, their mental health, and the health of the entire family unit, may fare better," Bamishigbin said in the statement. "This is why we suggest that paid paternal leave policies which can allow fathers the opportunity to be more involved with their kids and gain confidence as a parent early on in their lives, without having to worry about their economic security, and may help allow fathers more opportunities to be involved with their kids and be part of shaping healthier and thriving future generations. In turn, this may improve the well-being of the entire family." And for more insight into your mental health, This Is How You're Making Your Depression Worse.

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