Dr. Grossi's Blog

Gender Differences in Depression

Dr. Philip Grossi
Sunday, 04 May 2014

Two well known psychiatric researchers, Kendler and Gardner, recently published the results of examining over a thousand twins in the Virginia Twin Registry.  These results have shown light on new and added weight to prior findings regarding gender differences in males and females.  The most important factors contributing to major depression in women included divorce, lack of social support, marital dissatisfaction, and personality traits of shyness, anger, and anxiety.  For men occupational stressors, financial stressors, drug abuse and childhood sexual abuse were most important.  In keeping with these findings, men's depressions are defined by inability to achieve goals and lowered self-esteem whereas women's depressions are associated with deficiencies in caring relationships. These are stereotypical findings and may be related to the population studied which is not age representative for the country nor is it representative of the urban/rural mix of the country.  

There are other putative gender differences. About ten years ago, another group including Alan Schatzberg of Stanford, published their treatment response findings in many hundreds of depressed men and women.  They found that men responded better to imipramine (Tofranil) a tricyclic antidepressant than women did and that women responded better to sertraline (Zoloft) and SSRIs than men. From the point of view of impact on children, there have been several studies in recent years showing that depressed mothers produce a greater risk for depression in their children. There are also several studies demonstrating that children's depression in a family with a depressed mother  show marked improvement if the mother's depression remits. These studies underline the need for prompt and effective treatment for depressed individuals in families especially mothers of young children.