Depression and psychological distress: a life course perspective

Barbara Maughan

in A Life Course Approach to Women's Health

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780192632890
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191723629 | DOI:

Series: Life Course Approach to Adult Health

Depression and psychological distress: a life course perspective

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Biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to risk for depressive disorders. Understanding how they combine, their relative salience at different stages in the life course, and why women are at such markedly increased risk constitute significant challenges for research. This chapter provides an overview of recent evidence on these three related themes. It begins by sketching in epidemiological findings on changing rates and gender ratios in depressive disorders from childhood to older age, highlighting the periods when women's increased vulnerability first emerges, and when it appears to decline. It then examines the main domains of risk for depressive conditions, exploring how far men and women differ in exposure or susceptibility to risks that affect both sexes, or whether some gender-specific risks may be involved. Throughout, it highlights the differing pathways through which individual vulnerabilities, childhood adversities and later stressors have been argued to combine in the genesis of depression.

Keywords: depressive disorders; biological factors; psychological factors; social factors; risk factors; adult depression

Chapter.  7967 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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