What Is The Relationship Of Depression And Inability To Express Emotions In Middle-aged Men?

Published: Sep 22, 2010

Medical News Today -- Alexithymia, a difficulty in recognizing and expressing thoughts and emotions, is more common among men. In this study, a group of Finnish investigators examined whether long-term alexithymia is associated with male aging per se, or to aging-related psychological and somatic symptoms. In addition, they examined whether gonadal hormone levels affect these associations. The study was part of the longitudinal population-based Kuopio Depression Study (KUDEP) in the central-eastern part of Finland. Study questionnaires were mailed to the participants in May 1998 (T1, 2,050 respondents, aged 25 - 65 years). Follow-ups were performed in 1999 (T2; n = 1,722) and in 2001 (T3; n = 1,593). Altogether, 1,347 subjects responded all 3 times. The present study sample was a subgroup from this 3-year follow-up study. The inclusion criteria for the study were based on self-reported adverse mental symptoms prevailing at baseline and at both follow-ups. An adverse mental symptoms group was formed from participants who reported depressiveness (Beck Depression Inventory, BDI-21), alexithymic features (Toronto Alexithymia scale: TAS-20) or life dissatisfaction (Life Satisfaction Scale: LS-4) at all 3 follow-ups. The final study sample comprised 55 symptomatic and 59 asymptomatic men. In 2005, i.e. 7 years from the baseline, the subjects completed a questionnaire on their background, smoking status and alcohol consumption. Alexithymia was assessed by using the Finnish version of the 20-item TAS-20. The cumulative alexithymic burden was assessed by calculating the sum of TAS scores for each individual during the 3 previous assessment points (1998, 1999 and 2001); thus, reflecting the individuals' long-term symptomatic load. Based on the median of these TAS-20 sum scores, the study sample was divided into 2 groups (high alexithymic burden:TAS sum scores 137 - 233 points, n = 58; low alexithymic burden:TAS sum score 72 - 136 points, n = 56). The Finnish updated version of the 17-item Aging Males' Symptoms (AMS, range 17 - 85) scale was used to assess agingrelated symptoms. The diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD) was confirmed by using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV in 2005. Suicidality was estimated by one of the BDI items (item 9). The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) was used to assess psychological distress. The cut-off for hypogonadism was 160 pmol/l of free testosterone. The statistical methods included Pearson X2 analysis for categorical variables, and Student's t test or the Mann-Whitney U test for continuous variables. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine the factors independently associated with a high alexithymic burden.

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