Depression: Rates in Women, Men ... and Stress Effects across Sexes

By Bower, Bruce | Science News, June 3, 1995 | Go to article overview

Depression: Rates in Women, Men ... and Stress Effects across Sexes


Bower, Bruce, Science News


Researchers have consistently reported that women in the United States suffer from major depression at roughly twice the rate men do. Extensive international data now indicate that in many other countries, depression similarly afflicts more women than men, although absolute rates of depression vary greatly from one country to another.

Depression rates peak at two points in women's lives, asserts Myrna M. Weissman of Columbia University. The childbearing years of the late twenties to the early thirties usher in the first sharp rise, followed by a comparable crest in the postmenopausal years of the late forties to early fifties. Men display no pronounced jumps in depression rates during adulthood, Weissman says.

Postmenopausal depression hikes were observed in women born from 1925 to 1940, she says. Future work will look for this effect in women born later. Depression rates have increased substantially in women and men born since 1945, the New York scientist notes (SN: 12/5/92, p.391).

Weissman's data come from 10 population surveys completed during the 1980s in Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany, Italy, France, Lebanon, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 64 and completed interviews that probed for symptoms of depression.

In all countries, separated and divorced men exhibited much higher rates of depression than their married counterparts. In general, separated and divorced women suffered only slightly more depression than married women, while in Korea and Taiwan, their depression rates were identical.

A related study, based on data from the same U.S. survey that Weissman used, finds that Jewish men suffer from an elevated rate of major depression, comparable to that for Jewish women. …

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