Job insecurity, a faster breakdown of family life and the death of the traditional "male world" were thought to be behind the high prevalence of male mental health problems here, as well as a greater willingness for contemporary novelists to cover depression in their works.
A study of six European countries found that one in 12 British men suffers from major depression, and unlike men in other countries they are almost as likely as women to suffer bad mental health.
Whereas in other countries, depressed women outnumber men two to one, psychiatrists said yesterday the ratio in Britain was three to two and was "approaching one to one".
Overall, the study found 22 per cent of people suffering depressive symptoms and nearly 10 per cent suffering severe depression.
Dr Phil Timms, a consultant psychiatrist at Guy's, King's and St Thomas's medical schools in London, said no single reason was responsible for the higher levels among British men. "But the structure of family life has changed more quickly here in the last 20 years than somewhere like Spain."
Dr David Baldwin, consultant psychiatrist and president of the Depression Alliance, said job insecurity had been seen as a particular problem in Britain but added that increased awareness might account for part of the rising numbers of those seeking help.
"In terms of popular culture there are many more books on the subject of depression. Martin Amis, Blake Morrison and Nick Hornby have all written books which deal with male depression," Dr Baldwin said.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists yesterday launched a leaflet "Men Behaving Sadly" to encourage men to recognise their emotional distress and seek help. While women are likely to seek help for their depression, men turn to destructive behaviour such as heavy drinking. Men are also three times more likely to kill themselves than women.
"Women have more emotional intelligence and greater self-awareness," said Dr Baldwin. "They are better at expressing their emotions and seeking help. Men tend to withdraw and exclude themselves."
Dr Nicki McClure, a west London GP, said women also found it easier to seek help because they were more familiar with the medical environment. "Men just don't come to the surgery as often as women.''
The problem is exacerbated, Dr Baldwin believes, by the fact that many of the men who do seek help are not receiving appropriate diagnosis and treatment from their GPs.
"We need at some level to get doctors to think about depression in a slightly different way," he said.
"Men are coming into the surgery with depression and going away with depression. It is not being recognised."
Philip Wood, a former theatre manager, described his lifelong depression as a "black, heavy overcoat of pain, impossible to remove because all the buttons are soldered together".
And he added: "I feel strongly that there needs to be more education and awareness ... to dispel the myths surrounding depression and therefore ultimately helping those who are suffering to seek help and treatment."
Anxiety and irritability.
Feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction.
Poor impulse control - abusing drink and drugs, temperamental behaviour.
Lowered stress tolerance.
Aggression and anti-social behaviour.
'Endorphin-related behaviour' - workaholism, compulsive exercise.Reuse content