Depression in women

Jona Lewin

in Oxford Textbook of Women and Mental Health

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780199214365
Published online July 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199640454 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbooks

Depression in women

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Depression in women is common and has attracted increasing interest. It affects women disproportionately and besides the emotional suffering, it has a major impact on their ability to function in their various roles. An analysis of the effect of depression on disability adjusted life years (DALYs) by Murray and Lopez (1996) showed that depression was the second leading cause of disease burden after ischaemic heart disease. However, depression proved to be the leading cause of disability for women worldwide. The most likely reasons are the disproportionate prevalence of depression and the severity of its impact on a woman's life course. Possible reasons for the gender difference in depression prevalence could include a greater number of first-onset episodes, longer duration of depressive episodes, a greater recurrence of depression in women than in men, or a combination of these factors. This question was addressed by three large epidemiological studies conducted in the United States, which showed that the greater number of first-onset depressive episodes in women and not gender differences in the duration or recurrence of depression is responsible for the gender difference (Eaton et al. 1997; Keller and Shapiro 1981; Kessler et al. 1993). It can therefore be concluded that women have greater rates of first-onset depression than men, but once they are depressed, both have episodes of similar duration and are equally likely to have recurrent depressive episodes. The subsequent question arises why do women have greater rates of first-onset depression than men? This is most likely based on the fact that there are significant biological- and socialization-related differences between women and men. Women experience certain stressors more frequently than men and women may also react differently to these stressors, either due to different biological or socialization factors. In the rest of this chapter I will describe epidemiological evidence about the difference in prevalence of depression, examine the phases in the life cycle of a woman, and consider social, psychological, and biological aetiological factors.

Chapter.  6569 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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