Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Why Are More Women Than Men Depressed?

posted by Beyond Blue

I recently did some research for a women’s magazine about depression in young women (ages 18 to 30). The editors wanted to know why so many more women than men struggle with depression.

I got out my copy of “A Deeper Shade of Blue: A Woman’s Guide to Recognizing and Treating Depression in Her Childbearing Years” by Ruta Nonacs, M.D., Ph.D., whose work fascinates me. Here are some excerpts from her book that help to explain why women are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety:

Depression is about twice as common in women as in men, with about 1 woman in 4 suffering from depression at some point during her lifetime. Depression may strike at any time, but women appear to be particularly vulnerable during their childbearing years. Women are at highest risk for depression during pregnancy and shortly after delivery. One recent study indicated that as many as 25 percent of women suffer from depression during either pregnancy or postpartum period. Yet, in most of these women, the illness goes unrecognized and untreated.

Many have attributed this disparity to the various stresses women face as a result of their gender and the demands women face as they occupy multiple–and often conflicting–roles within the family, in the community, and at work. Over the last decade, researchers have also focused on the role of reproductive hormones, particularly estrogen.

In is interesting to note that before adolescence, rates of depression are about the same among girls and boys. Thing begin to shift between the ages of eleven and thirteen. Over these years, there is a dramatic rise in the prevalence of depression in girls, and by the age of fifteen females are twice as likely as males to suffer from depression. What happens to create this gender gap during adolescence is a topic of intense debate and research. There is no doubt that adolescence is a time characterized by dramatic psychological and physical changes for women, and it is easy to imagine that this tumultuous transition may render adolescent girls more vulnerable to depression. However, a woman’s risk for depression persists beyond puberty and she remains at higher risk for depressive illness than a man throughout her entire adult life.

At no other point are women more vulnerable to depression than during their childbearing years. How can we explain this susceptibility to depression? From a psychological standpoint, this is a time when she is faced with many life-changing and potentially stressful transforming events; during this span of years a woman pursues her education, career, marriage, childbearing, and child rearing. These changes provide the emotional context within which depression may take hold. However, in addition to being an emotionally charged time, the childbearing years are also characterized by dramatic hormonal shifts related to reproductive functioning. Every month a woman completes a menstrual cycle and is exposed to rising and then falling levels of reproduce hormones. During pregnancy and after delivery, a woman experiences even more dramatic shifts in this reproductive hormonal environment. Many specialists in the field of women’s mental health have postulated that it is the combination of psychological stressors and hormonal events that make women so vulnerable to depression during the childbearing years.

Not only is a woman exposed to different types of hormones and different levels of these hormones than a man, throughout her reproductive years she experiences constant hormonal fluctuations. … Experts believe that these hormonal shifts may act as a trigger for depression in some women and that women who have premenstrual mood changes may also be more vulnerable to depression at other times when exposed to significant hormonal fluctuations, such as after childbirth or during the transition to menopause.

While it is clear that certain women may be more vulnerable to these hormonal shifts, it is not clear whether hormonal factors increase vulnerability in all women. Some researchers hypothesize that these monthly hormonal changes act as a type of recurrent stressor, and with these repetitive insults, the underlying architecture of a woman’s brain is somehow altered so that is more susceptible to depression.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to www.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.



  • Sanja Palavra

    The one thing to add is level of hormones due to taking birth control. Those tend to contribute to developing cases of depression.

  • susan

    I think woman have more stress due to hormonal changes but also because they are required to carry the load, Take care of it all! Work andn take care of children -take care of a home and be the DO ALL! Make everyone happy- Society does not make it easier for woman as a whole, we have more to do then men and we are made to be responsible for EVERYTHING by ourselves and our families, Men have stress but they are a different make up and do not take things the way woman do. Society has never given woman a break who work and child rear- Most companies are not flexible enough to help woman to de-stress so they do not get depression! It is a tough go around and woman need more outlets! I agree that depression is related to hormones but it is alot more then just that.

  • Larry Parker

    I agree, in a sexist world, you have to consider environmental as well as genetic/hormonal factors for women’s higher rate of depression.
    Still not sure it’s double the rate for men, though. Men experience depression differently, trying to tough it out — and often don’t report it. Terrence Real’s work should be a real eye-opener on that score.

  • frgough

    Men and women are simply wired differently. Listen to a typical teenage girl conversation then a typical teenage guy conversation.
    The girls will talk about this friend or that who dissed them or didn’t diss them and who treated who the right way or the wrong way, and how ugly so and so is, and how cute this outfit was or that outfit is and “I hate my (insert body feature), etc.
    The guys basically talk about sports, computer games or which girls are cute.
    In other words, guys don’t agonize over relationships.

  • Melzoom

    I wonder if we don’t do our men a disservice in reporting these type of statistics. Since men are less likely to seek help or discuss but more likely to be successful in their suicide attempts, I am concerned that statistics that link depression with women and childbearing only further emasculates those men who have depression and reinforces the stereotype that depression is ‘a woman’s issue’ or glorified hysterics.
    At the same time, I know that I am definitely effected by hormonal changes and this type of information is helpful in understanding and recognizing patterns in my abilities to manage my symptoms.
    Thanks, Therese.

  • Heather

    How about the fact that doctors don’t want women who have the possibility of becoming pregnant to take ANY kind of drug- for the potential baby’s sake. So a woman still open to the idea of having more while in her childbearing years puts off what she knows she needs, and suffers and makes due any way she can… but it goes untreated sometimes for years and years. I’m waiting till menopause to be normal and happy.

  • Anonymous

    Hather: I don’t want to rain on your parade, but as a post-menopausal woman I feel the need to warn you that “normal and happy are not adjectives I would apply to this time in my life.
    Everyone: I think part of men’s “lower susptibility(?) to dpression may also be related to the “real men don’t cry” mentality that our socieety embraces. Many if not most boys have that drummed ito them once they’ve passed the toddler stage. They’re bombarded with messages from all sides that leave them vulnerable to believing that emotionalism is a female only space and their manhood is questioned if they try to buck the system. How many times have we all heard the “He cries like a woman disparagement voiced by people who observe any of them expressing melancholy or emotional pain. IMO we do a great disservice to our malesat thesame time “crying in our beer” because finding a sensitive mate who can andwill relate n a deeply emotional level is so difficult to do. We can’t have it both way, folks, but it doesn’t stop us from trying, now, does it? Hmmmmm

  • Green is my Favorite Color

    Personally, I think depression in men is grossly under-reported. Men don’t, won’t, can’t talk about it – even with their spouses, let alone their doctors. Even though I’m male, I sought out treatment because mine, and my family’s quality of life were suffering.
    Still, the percentage in women would probably be higher than in men even if the reporting was perfect

  • Anonymous

    so what is that tell me .i love for the next see yous .for times comming loves yous for ever eternity.

  • Karen Stevens

    I have been in a terrible depression from my teen years right up until recently.I have a bad habit of letting my childhood come into play and I try to stay on a rebound to anyone and everyone that comes into my life. I automatically think that is going to happen to me again. I am now on something for anxiety. I recently lost a loving and caring relationship to my mood swings and when upset constantly blurting out things without thinking. My depression now is losing the most wonderful man I have ever had knowing I will never get him back in my life the way I want. I turned to God and self conceling myself knowing it isn’t my fault and not everyone was like my mother was.Nor the bad physical relationships I have had in the past. God walks beside me always and I learned he never gives me more than I can deal with. I now learn from the experience of my past, Learned how to forgive my mother and Ask God to forgive her and help me in my heart forgive her. And it worked. Karen from Massachusetts

  • Jeanne

    Having suffered from depression on and off most of my life time, I think there are several reasons women suffer more from depression than men. Women’s brains are different than men in that we are more social and concerned about relationships and loves, where as men are more competitive and concerned mainly with status. Women are raised to be more passive, than assertive, and/or aggressive as men are. Women are raised with less self esteem than men. It is more acceptable in our society for men
    to display their anger than a women to express her feelings. So there are many, many factors why women
    are more depressed than men. Women’s self esteem and feelings about themselves are based so much on their friendships/relationships. When those relationships falter, so does her self esteem and it is easier for her to fall into depression, Men are not concerned as much about relationships as they are about sports, cars, careers, etc.. So men are more likely to suffer from anxiety, while women suffer from depression.

  • Lauren Alonzo

    This is actually very true. Not only that but hormones contribute to many more things in women than just depression too. I just finished reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, M.D., and was fascinated to learn how much hormones play a role in every aspect of a women’s lives and how it differs from men too. Anyone who sometimes feel like they may be going crazy (like me) should definitely read this book!

  • edie

    i’ve suffered w/ depression most of my life, been on many medications in the past. but they all seem to carry side affects that sometimes worse than the depression itself. so as of now i’m on no treatments for my depression. i sometimes feel i will be this way the rest of my life.

  • Wendy

    I too feel that I will be this way the rest of my life. I used to think that somehow I would conquer this either by therapy, medication and/or things changing in my life. I no longer think that because I am on medication and it does help to be able to function most of the time. I cannot afford therapy although when I did go, I didn’t feel that it helped. And life only gets harder. Yes most women care so much about relationships and I have found that getting a divorce which I wanted, I cannot get over. I cannot forgive myself for hurting my ex or for hurting my children even though they are grown. They all say that they just want me to be happy but I can’t. I try not to, but I am hurt by my grown children and their spouses and wish that we had better relationships. Men just don’t seem to care. My ex thinks I obcess over these things that I cannot change and he doesn’t worry about any of it, at least according to him. I don’t understand why he doesn’t want things to be better with his children. I do wonder how much hormones has played a role in my depression. I am completely miserable.

  • anonymous

    I feel bad for all of those who cannot find relief of their depression. I too have suffered from it for most of my adult life, however I do feel better on medication, and realize that I should never go off of it. It has helped me tremendously, as well as therapy. Somehow talking about it just helps, and having support from someone who understands and gives you hope that things can get better is so helpful. If you cannot afford therapy, try to find help from churches, social workers etc. I do believe that women suffer so much more from depression, and I DO believe that hormones play a big factor. I suffered post-partum depression and then had some good years. But as menopause approaches, I’ve been having bouts of it and went back on anti-depressants and thank God I am seeing the light at the end of a dark tunnel. Depression is so real and people who have never experienced clinical depression cannot understand the pain it causes. For anyone out there feeling this way, please know that there are things that can help you.

  • Angie

    I also suffer with depression for many years. I am on medication and I
    don’t feel any better. I did therapy and I found that it did not do much, but cost alot. Has anyone heard of EFT for depression?

  • Nicole

    I have also had bouts of depression since my teenage years. It got worse after having my first daughter and after I left her father I seemed to get so much better. Now, after my second daughter I’ve had more bouts with depression. It seems to last months and relent for a month or two only to come back stronger than ever. It’s such a horrible feeling, makes you feel so worthless and that nothing you can think of will ever make it better. Even now that I’m on medication it only helps sometimes. It makes me angry because I want to enjoy every minute I have with my girls. I wish there was a real solution to make it go away for good.

  • Susan

    you think you are depressed now well wait until you are 60+ your body betrays you and you fear about retiring because you don’t have enough money to do so – option, work until you are dying………then hope it happens fast so you don’t lose your home you spent so many years protecting WITHOUT ANOTHER TO HELP YOU BECAUSE THEY BETRAYED YOU

  • Guadalupe Barragan/Retired teacher

    I’m 71 and have never or hardly ever remember of having suffered of depresion; but lately, these passed 2 years I fall in it easily. I sometimes think it is not depression but what I feel it’s awful. I don’t want to go out, rarely fix my face like I did before, I work here in my house, but if I have to go out I look out for whatever excuse I can get, even lies, that harm no one but me.
    I cry, and remember bad things all the time, like I chat with myself inventing stories about bad feelings,it’s awful, and the worst part it that I used to use the computer to pray, and send messages, and read about all these things, but I have abandoned it.

  • Judy

    Every woman, man and child’s story of suffering from depression makes me ache. It doesn’t matter when it hits you, at what age, it can take you down.
    I do feel for women in their child-bearing years. Society doesn’t offer a lot of help, as much of women are still defined by our children, our men, our families, but I do see hope for women. Especially during their 30’s, and 40’s, many women have a greater sense of who they are; apart from family and friends. Their ego comes into its own, and they discover, and fight, for their rights to be who and what they want to be.
    Yet I don’t see women fighting for each other. Too often I see women betray friends to hold onto a flimsy social standing. Seeing women cut off women to gain favor with men, or groups with more social acceptance, or financial standing, always hurts; no matter your age.
    Where do women go who have run out of chances in a society that favors men, money, beauty, and fleeting popularity? What if family and children have never materialized, or they’ve all disappeared – for whatever reasons that happen? Beauty is gone and careers are over, or no longer progressing. What of them?

  • mitch

    Why do men actually succeed in comitting suicide at a rate three times higher than women is a better question.

  • Bri

    Why do men actually succeed in comitting suicide at a rate three times higher than women is a better question.
    — Women probably think about how suicide would effect their loved ones more than men would; they would be more inclined to not end their depression in a selfish way.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Anna (St. Mary’s College, Ponsonby)

    I am a 12-year-old and this is an important discussion for my persuasive speech(Depression & Suicide in NZ) for my English class. After reading other people’s ideas, in my opinion, I think that the reason women get more depressed than men is that a majority of women take things more seriously compared to most men. There are a lot of differences in both genders’ perspectives. Like in frgough’s comment, men take life too lightly while women always overanalyze everything. One of the things that make everyone depressed is their physical structure (e.g. face, height, weight) because a lot of people care about their looks which is then they are described as “VAIN”. But a lot of men disregard their looks and just goes on with their lives but once they are depressed, they are more deadly. Men are often found to be more successful in suicide attempts than women. But nowadays, a lot of people are becoming aware of the dangers of depression that’s why they are organizing programs that help people get through depression which is nice and is why I came up on this topic for my persuasive speech which I will be persuading people to help support those organizations by donations that will help develop those programs.

  • http://url.org/bookmarks/homeplain6 Living With Depression? Try Following This Advice!

    You’re in reality a excellent webmaster. The site loading pace is incredible. It sort of feels that you’re doing any unique trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece. you’ve performed a wonderful process on this subject!

  • Eva Jones

    As feminism has become more widely accepted in popular culture, it has
    reached into some scholarly fields where it may not necessarily have been
    invited- such as the field of psychology. Since the days of Freud’s
    “hysterics”, women suffering from mental illness have been approached by
    psychologists in specific, culturally determined ways. I wonder to what extent
    unconscious social understandings and expectations of women are considered in
    the diagnosis and treatment of women suffering from depression/anxiety, as
    these diseases are highly prevalent among women, more than they are among men.
    There has been some research in recent decades, suggesting that social roles
    and cultural expectations of women can lead to the increased risk of
    depression/anxiety. This is due to the higher rate of stress-inducing events
    which women face (domestic abuse, displacement, discrimination, etc) as well as
    women’s limited ability to self-care due to their socialization as caretakers
    and the culturally determined development of poor coping skills such as
    repression and guilt. But how often do psychologists consider the stress caused by gendered roles in society for women when diagnosing and treating depression/anxiety in female patients? Although there are some proposed models which attempt to explain how being a woman puts one at an increased risk of depression/anxiety (due to biological, social and affective factors), none of these are critically acclaimed or widely accepted. Nor are there considerations made in the DSM for treating women with depression/anxiety. Yet women continue to suffer a different (lesser)
    experience than men in our society and women continue to develop depressive and
    anxiety disorders at much higher rates than men. Understanding the roles and
    expectations of women in our society is critical to not only understanding the
    gender gap in depression, but also to effectively diagnosing and treating women
    with depression/anxiety.

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate measures to control a mood disorder, that faithfulness

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from the drama queen at the water cooler). Why? Because we

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a third, stuff her full of refined sugar and processed f

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer is difficult? What if, instead, everything looks dark,

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.