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Call to address postnatal health in men

One in ten men report high levels of psychological distress in the first year of fatherhood, new research has found.

The study led by Rebecca Giallo, senior research fellow at the Parenting Research Centre, said more needed to be done to focus on mental health problems in new fathers.

Psychological distress in men was found to be comparable to the incidence of postnatal depression in new mums (13 per cent).

The national study of 3000 Australian fathers was the first to analyse the experiences of men and found that a father’s job was the most significant predictor of psychological distress in the postnatal period.

Access to flexible working hours and family-friendly leave was more significant than socioeconomic status, age or a child’s temperament and sleep problems for predicting mental health outcomes.

Fathers who reported the lowest job quality were five times more likely to report distress than men with better working conditions.

The study was the first to demonstrate a link between employment conditions and parent mental health.

The researchers said infant and early childhood services had typically focused on the needs of mothers and babies but fathers were similarly at risk of stress, anxiety and depression.

The study called for improved access to information and support to promote the wellbeing of men.

Distress among new fathers was 1.5 times higher than men in the general population.

The most important risk factors identified were poor job quality, poor relationship quality, maternal psychological distress and having a partner in a more prestigious occupation. The study said the clinical assessment of fathers’ mental health should consider these risk factors.

Previous studies have shown that fathers with good mental health can help to buffer the negative effects of maternal psychological distress on children.

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