Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, and it is perceived that women are more susceptible to depression than men. Studies say that depression is twice as common in women as in men. The reasons for this uneven gender distribution are not entirely clear, but are thought to be partly biological, partly psychological, and partly socio-cultural.
An article, titled “The 7 Reasons Why Depression is More Common in Women,” published on May 17, 2012 in the Psychology Today highlighted some explanations for depression being more prone to women.
- Women have a stronger genetic predisposition than men for developing depression.
- Women experience fluctuating hormone levels in comparison to men. During pregnancy and menopause, women are most likely to be depressed.
- Women are more ruminative than men i.e. they ponder and think about things more which can lead to depression.
- Women are generally more invested in relationships than men. Relationship problems are likely to affect them more, and so they are more likely to develop depression.
- Women can experience more stressful life events than men. Apart from being engaged in professional commitments like men, they also have to give equal importance to family, children, looking after older relatives and putting up with all the sexism.
- Researches suggest that women live longer than men and extreme old age is often associated with bereavement, loneliness, poor physical health which ultimately leads to depression.
Apart from these explanations, a recent study by researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health’s department of epidemiology and published in the January issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine states that the wage gap between American women and men might be a reason why women have higher rates of depression and anxiety in the United States.
Women with lower incomes than men with similar levels of education and experience were about 2.5 times more likely to have major depression than men. But, women who had incomes similar to their male counterparts didn’t have a greater risk of depression than men, the research revealed.
Genetic patterns linked to depression differ in men and women
A study by A.L. Gray and colleagues at the University of Illinois, Chicago, published by the Molecular Psychiatry on July 14, 2015, states that patterns of gene activity have been observed which are linked to depression and the likelihood of death by suicide that differs between men and women. The study, which included a large number of women, examined the expression of glutamate receptor-encoding genes in a part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This brain region is important in regulating mood and cognition, which are disrupted in patients with depression.
The team found some unique abnormalities in the glutamate system among women. Women with depression showed higher expression for 14 of the 21 genes tested in comparison to their non-depressed counterparts. This pattern included all but one of the genes that instruct cells to produce a type of docking port for glutamate called NMDA receptors. A gene that encodes part of another class of glutamate receptors, called AMPA receptors, also showed high expression among depressed women.
However, the researchers also caution that the brain tissue they studied might have been altered due to prolonged use of antidepressants. As a result, the findings can be a reflection of drug effects rather than the cause of genetic abnormalities. More research on this will further the authenticity of the specified genetic patterns in women.
Women who are suffering from depression are most likely to get the same type of treatment as men. However, specific aspects of treatment must be considered due to female biological differences. Women should generally be started on lower doses of antidepressants than men, as they are more prone to side effects.
If you or your loved one is in a state of depression frequently, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a specialist. You can connect to the Depression Treatment Helpline which is a free resource dedicated to helping those struggling with depression to find appropriate depression treatment options. For further information and assistance, call us at 866-619-5591 or chat online anytime.