YOUNG men in regional and rural New South Wales are being asked to open up about their fears, expectations and experiences of fatherhood in a Deakin University study.
It aims to improve the mental health of those in this crucial life stage, lead researcher Jacqui Macdonald said.
"At 33, many men will become fathers for the first time,” she said.
"But this is also a time when men are particularly vulnerable to stress and depression.
"At this age, suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian men and the male suicide rate is three times that of females.”
Dr Macdonald said the study, entitled Men and Parenting Pathways, aims to get a more accurate picture of the way men cope with family life including paternity, work balance, relationship and social network changes, new responsibilities and how men connect with their children emotionally.
Dr Macdonald, from Deakin's School of Psychology, said the study had so far recruited 600 men aged 28 to 32 to take part, but more were needed from rural and regional areas to gain a better picture of fathers in Australia.
"We know that rural Australians experience more psychological distress and suicide than urban Australians and have less access to services and greater social stigma attached to help-seeking,” Dr Macdonald said.
"Some small studies suggest that this might be because rural men are bound more by traditional expectations of masculinity which includes being stoic and not expressing emotions.
"This is quite plausible but we just don't have enough data to know how accurate it is because large studies of men have not been undertaken.
"Accurately assessing how men are managing life's demands across multiple locales will help us to provide the type of support that men need but are also willing to engage in.”
Participants in the Men and Parenting Pathways study will be asked to complete a 20-minute online survey once a year for the next five years.
The Men and Parenting Pathways Study finishes recruitment at the end of February and is specifically looking for more men from rural and regional New South Wales aged 28 to 32.
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