Do Men and Women Experience Depression Differently?

AJPKenneth Kendler, M.D., a professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Human and Molecular Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and colleagues studied 1,057 adult opposite-sex dizygotic twin pairs for the incidence of major depression within a given year, and identified 20 risk factors that may contribute to such incidences. They found that 11 of the 20 risk factors differed across gender lines as they relate to the development of major depression.

For women there were 5 factors that had greatest impact: parental warmth, neuroticism, divorce, social support, and marital satisfaction. Six had a greater impact in men: childhood sexual abuse, conduct disorder, drug abuse, prior history of major depression, and distal and dependent proximal stressful life events. The authors point out that ‘the developmental pathways to depression in men and women share some important elements, but on average differ from each other in some important ways.’

The researchers concluded that in this co-twin control design, which matches sisters and brothers on genetic and familial-environmental background, ‘personality and failures in interpersonal relationships played a stronger etiologic role in major depression for women than for men, whereas, externalizing psychopathology, prior depression, and specific “instrumental” classes of acute stressors were more important in the etiologic pathway to major depression for men.’ It would be interesting to see how these factors would translate into psychotherapeutic approaches and responses to treatment.

Am J Psychiatry 2014 [Epub]

An interesting related article appeared in JAMA Psychiatry last year.

The Experience of Symptoms of Depression in Men vs Women
Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication