Gender Differences in Depression
Why are women more vulnerable than men are?
Over the years, studies have shown than a gender difference exists in the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. For some reason, women tend to be more vulnerable to depressive symptoms than men are. In search of a reason why this occurs, researchers at the University of Michigan, in association with a collaborator with an independent practice in California, conducted a two-wave study of 1132 men and women from communities in California. The participants completed a variety of questionnaires during two in-home interviews that were one year apart.
They tested the idea that women are more vulnerable to depressive symptoms than men are because they are more likely to experience long-term strain in their lives, to feel like they have less control over their lives, and to rely on coping strategies that involve repetitive thoughts about the causes, meanings, and consequences of their stress in the absence of efforts to actively do anything about it.
The findings from the study supported this idea. Additionally, these three tendencies in women tended to contribute to each other over time.
So what can be done to make women less likely to become depressed? One potential solution might be to help women achieve a greater sense of control over their lives. Another potential solution might be to encourage women to use coping strategies that emphasize problem solving. Of course, improving the unfair social circumstances that women are faced with (e.g., having to work full-time and take care of their children, unequal power and status in relationships with men) also would probably be a step in the right direction.
Source: Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Larson, J., & Grayson, C. (1999). Explaining the gender difference in depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1061-1072.