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Depression is more common among women across all age groups except for children 10 and under. In general, women experience depression twice as often as men, but the reasons for this are unclear. There are many factors that may contribute to the higher prevalence of depression in women. Factors such as gender and work roles, life situations, menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, abuse, poverty, and the higher rate of becoming widowed. These things can work alone, or combine into a situation that triggers depressive symptoms.
Gender and work roles add to depression in women because of the stress and pressure to conform to their expected persona. Women today are expected not only to be caregivers for their families, but often they are also expected to have careers that bring in much needed income for the family. Their roles in the workplace may directly compete with those in the home creating a very stressful situation. Even minimal stressors can trigger depressive symptoms that may worsen into full blown depression. Of course, this means that the extreme stress created by those competing roles would potentially cause depression in women who are already at risk for the condition.
Life situations can add to depression in both men and women, but often affect women to a greater extent. Depression rates are higher in women who are single mothers, are separated or divorced, unhappily married, or who do not have an intimate relationship. It is unknown why women in these situations develop depression more frequently than men in the same positions.
Another factor that is unique to women and adds to the occurrence of depression is the hormonal changes that a woman experiences throughout her life. The onset of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. At each of those times in a woman’s life, her hormone levels go through vast changes. Many of these hormones have a large effect on the brain and how the brain controls mood. These changes can often lead to depression. Especially if the individual was already at risk. Post partum is an especially high risk time for women. The hormonal changes combined with the stress of a new baby often leave the mother with the “baby blues” that can over time progress into full blown depression. Research shows that menopause does not seem to increase the risk of depression unless the individual has already had depression.
Women who have experienced some kind abuse, especially that of a sexual nature, are more likely to develop depression. These women have the highest prevalence of depression. Since women are far more likely to be sexually abused than men, this might shed light on one reason why women experience depression more than men. Other types of abuse also contribute to depression in women, such as physical, emotional, and sexual harassment. Abuse often leads to depression because of the loss of self worth and self esteem, the feelings of helplessness, and the isolation that occurs during and after the abuse.
Poverty & Loss
Poverty is a contributing factor of depression for both men and women, but since the percentage of women in poverty is greater than that of men, this might also help explain why women experience depression more often than men. Poverty is a very stressful thing to experience. Often in poverty individuals experience more negative situations, isolation, sadness, lack of morale, and little to no access to the help they need. Given that any kind of stress can trigger depression in an individual that is prone to it, poverty can’t be ignored as a possible contributor to depression, especially in women.
The loss of a life partner can trigger depression that springs from grief. Grief and depression are two very different things, but often grief can lead to depression, if the symptoms become long lasting. Depression occurs in about ⅓ of widowers. Women have a higher prevalence of being widowed. Depression following the loss of a spouse may also add to the higher rates of depression in women.
There are many issues that contribute to the rates of depression among women that may shed light on why women tend to experience depression more than men. Issues such as: societal expectations due to work and gender roles, hormonal changes throughout life, the higher probability of abuse or sexual trauma, higher poverty rates, and the greater likelihood of becoming a widow. Each of these conditions add to the possibility of the individual becoming depressed. Most of these situations occur more often in women than men, which might be why women become depressed more than men.
- Tina Fuster
I am a man and therefore my discussion on this subject may be a little off base with some of the female readers. However, I certainly will do my best to offer as much insight as I am able from a professional counseling perspective more than anything else. This is my only disclaimer.
I believe that depression in women is more visible than in men. Women are far more likely to be an open-book than men, because women tend to be able to exhibit more freedom in their expressions and conversations, usually more often with other women, than with men.
Their open communication does not cause the depression, however it does reveal the depression related issues more quickly. The statistics of women being widowed at a higher rate than men and perhaps being a factor in depression is very telling of this characteristic.
As a man, I believe that most other men tend repress and suppress their feelings on most everything. We hold back our anger. We eat our stress. We temper our aggression, and we scream bloody murder on the inside all while smiling on the outside - All as a challenge to control ourselves and avoid the appearance of weakness. Frankly, this is a very unhealthy way to live, and it is killing us.
My belief is that all of this repression causes men to hold back in most every area of their lives. We are taught at a younger age the whole "stiff upper lip and boys don’t cry" way of life. It is wrong and ineffective to do so, but the cycle has been perpetuated since I don’t know when, perhaps the dawn of humanity. However, expressing emotions does not cause men to be weak or effeminate by crying when we are upset or to react in a way other than punching something or someone.
I contend that this repressive male reaction to the stressors of life is the cause of male depression. I know that Jimmy Buffett would say that it was some woman’s fault, and as much as I want to agree, I cannot. (If you listen to the song, he also agreed that it was his own !@#! fault.)
Women may visibly suffer from depression at a higher rate than men, but I really believe it is because they are not afraid to admit it and seek treatment. Whereas, men would rather make an appointment with the morgue for an autopsy than admit they have a problem with the doctor or therapist.
I do not want to minimize the affects or diagnosis of depression in women. It is significant without question, but I wonder - Do women really have depression more than men, or are they simply the ones who are more ready to admit the truth of their feelings?
Women and Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/women-and-depression/0001290