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Childless Men "More Depressed and Sad" Than Women With no Children

Update Date: Apr 03, 2013 11:27 AM EDT

Childless men are more likely to suffer depression than their female counterparts, according to a new study.

New research presented Wednesday at the British Sociological Association annual conference in London revealed that while men want to be fathers just as much as women want to be mothers, they feel more isolated, depressed, angry and sad than women if they don't have children.

The study also found that the men and women want to have children for different reasons. Men are more likely to cite cultural, societal and family pressures, whereas women are more likely to cite personal desire and biological urge as major influences to having children.

The study involved 27 men and 81 women who were not parents. The participants were aged 20 to 66, with an average age of 41. Participants were asked if they wanted to have children and why.

The findings show that 59 percent of men and 63 percent of women wanted to have children.

Among the participants who wanted children, 50 percent of men had experienced isolation because they were childless compared with 27 percent of women.  Thirty-eight percent of men had experienced depression compared to only 27 percent of women, while 25 percent of men had experienced anger compared with 18 percent of women.  More childless men who wanted children experienced sadness and jealousy than childless women.  Researchers found that 56 percent of childless men experienced sadness and jealousy compared to 43 percent and 47 percent of women.

While childless men were found to be more depressed and sad, childless women experienced more yearning for a child and guilt because they did not have children.

The study found that 71 percent of childless women experienced yearning for a child compared to 69 percent of men.  However, no men experienced guilt because they did not have any children compared with 16 percent of women.

"There is very little research on the desire for fatherhood among men," researcher Robin Hadley of Keele University said in a statement. "My work shows that there was a similar level of desire for parenthood among childless men and women in the survey, and that men had higher levels of anger, depression, sadness, jealousy and isolation than women and similar level of yearning."

"This challenges the common idea that women are much more likely to want to have children than men, and that they consistently experience a range of negative emotions more deeply than men if they don't have children," he said.

Researchers also surveyed another 125 men and women who were parents to find out if they wanted more children.  They found that 59 percent of women wanted more children compared to 55 percent of men.  Interestingly, when researchers asked participants in the second study to think about not being able to have children, women experienced higher levels of anger, depression, guilt, isolation, sadness and yearning than men.

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