Existing research suggests that gender differences in the effect of unemployment on mental health are related to the different positions and roles that are available for men and women in society and the family; roles that are connected with their different psychosocial and economic need for employment. The aim of this article is to analyse the role of gender in the relationship between unemployment and mental wellbeing in Sweden, representing a gender regime with a similar need for employment among women and men, and Ireland, representing a gender regime in which the need for employment differs between women and men. The results, based on longitudinal data from the two countries, show that unemployment was more negatively related to mental health among men than among women in Ireland, while men and women were equally affected by unemployment in Sweden. Factors related to the family and economic situation, as well as gendered selection into the unemployment population, explains the difference in mental health between unemployed men and women in Ireland. The overall conclusion is that the context has a major influence on the relationship between unemployment, gender and mental health.