Do Men or Women Suffer More from Depression?
Do Men or Women Suffer More from Depression? Depression is a mental health disorder that affects mood. A state of depression is a persistent feeling of despair, anxiety, sadness, and loss of interest. Major depressive disorder (MDD) has physical and emotional repercussions.
MDD can make life feel meaningless, destroy interpersonal relationships, and make it near impossible to work or study effectively. Depression can affect anyone at any time, although there are certain triggers and predispositions to look out for.
According to Stanford.edu, an estimated 10% of individuals in the US experience MDD at some point in their lives. Stanford Medicine: Genetics of Brain Function posits that women are twice as likely as men to experience MDD. This can be slightly misleading as women are more likely than men to seek depression treatment. As for the causes of depression, Stanford Medicine studies suggest that for MDD, 50% could be genetic and 50% environmental or psychological factors.
What the numbers say about MDD in Men and Women
According to data compiled by Salik, Hyde, and Abramson (PMCID: PMC5532074, NIHMSID: NIHMS856948, PMID: 28447828), depression accounts for, ‘… 10% of the total non-fatal disease burden worldwide. Moreover, this burden falls disproportionately on girls. In one study, the global 12-month prevalence of major depressive disorder was 5.8% in females and 3.5% in males.’ This is certainly an alarming statistic and it points to the urgency of diagnosing and treating depression in communities around the world. Females can suffer from MDD much more than men, at a ratio of 2:1, but this is not a universal standard.
In various studies conducted by the World Health Organisation World Mental Health surveys, the ratios between female and male rates of depression over 12 months ranged from as low as 1.2 X for females to 2.7 X for females. Psychiatric epidemiology has consistently found that women are at much higher risk of depression than men.
Consider the study by Ethiop J Health Sci (2013) titled Gender Disparity in Prevalence of Depression among Patient Population: A Systematic Review. This study used a meta-analysis from 1969 patients with a male/female ratio of 1.14/1. The results of the study found that males are 63% less likely to develop symptoms of depression than females. Therefore, the conclusion was reached that depression is far more common among females than males.
Why Are Women More Likely to Suffer from Depression Than Men?
As evidenced by multiple studies over the years, gender differences in depression are a real phenomenon. These differences can begin as early as 12 years of age. Many risk factors may give rise to these gender differences. For one thing, women can experience disorders related to their menstrual cycle. This is known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). Physiological differences, notably thyroid functionality and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland contribute to a woman’s propensity to develop MDD.
Males and females grow up differently. Society tends to socialize females to be nurturing and motherly. Males are taught to be more independent and less outwardly emotional in their behavior. Discrimination against females is alive and well in the workplace, and in society too. Women who pursue careers are often vilified for not being doting mothers and wives, while society tends to look down on women who stay home to take care of the family. It’s a Catch-22. How women cope with day-to-day challenges, a.k.a. ruminative coping – differs from the way that men cope with issues.
While all of the studies present lots of red meat to audiences, they may be missing the most critical element of all: women are far more likely to go seek help for depression than men. If this is indeed the case, women will naturally be diagnosed more frequently than men. This suggests that depression in men is severely underdiagnosed and that men display symptoms of depression differently from women. For example, men may start to develop erratic sleeping habits, eating habits, and mood disorders. If the diagnostical differences are accounted for, then men may experience depression more than women do. The complexity of depression makes it difficult to accurately gauge across the board.
The fact that more women come forward, seeking treatment (medications, therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, et al) presents us with a body of statistical data that is used to make these findings. If more men start coming forward, seeking treatment, the statistics will start to reflect this. Having said that, there are clear biological differences between females and males and they play a big part in how frequently depression is diagnosed in females.
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May 17, 2022