Gender Differences in Depression

3018 Words Feb 28th, 2013 13 Pages
CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE

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Gender Differences in Depression
Susan Nolen-Hoeksema1
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Abstract From early adolescence through adulthood, women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Many different explanations for this gender difference in depression have been offered, but none seems to fully explain it. Recent research has focused on gender differences in stress responses, and in exposure to certain stressors. I review this research and describe how gender differences in stress experiences and stress reactivity may interact to create women’s greater vulnerability to depression. Keywords gender; depression; stress

Across many
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Sexual assault during childhood has been more consistently linked with the gender difference in depression than sexual assault that first occurs during adulthood. Estimates of the prevalence of childhood sexual assault range widely. Cutler and I reviewed the most methodologically

Copyright © 2001 American Psychological Society

174 sound studies including both male and female participants and found rates of childhood sexual assault between 7 and 19% for females and between 3 and 7% for males (Cutler & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). We estimated that, in turn, as much as 35% of the gender difference in adult depression could be accounted for by the higher incidence of assault of girls relative to boys. A few studies have examined whether depression might be an antecedent rather than a consequence of sexual assault. Depression does appear to increase risk for sexual assault in women and men, but sexual assault significantly increases risk for first or new onsets of depression. Childhood sexual assault may increase risk for depression throughout the life span because abuse experiences negatively alter biological and psychological responses to stress (Weiss et al., 1999). Children and adolescents who have been abused, particularly
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