Gender Differences in Depression
Men and women share the same core set of depression symptoms: depressed mood, lack of motivation, loss of pleasure, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, feelings of guilt and difficulty concentrating. However, studies suggest that some differences in the symptom patterns exhibited by men and women.
It has been widely documented that there are gender difference in depression prevalence, with women experiencing major depression about twice as often as men. The lifetime risk of major depression in women is about 20% to 26%, compared to about 8% to 12% for men. This risk exists independent of race or ethnicity.
One of the most commonly reported differences in male and female suicide behavior is method selection. Men tend to choose more violent -- and thus more likely to be lethal -- methods, such as hanging, vehicle exhaust gas, asphyxiation and firearms. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to choose self-poisoning.
There is ongoing controversy about whether men and women respond equally well to antidepressants. A 1996 meta-analysis, which reviewed 35 studies comparing men's and women's responses to the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine, found a statistically significant better response to the drug among the men studied. A later randomized double-blind study, which compared men's and women's responses to imipramine and the SSRI antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), found that the women responded better to sertraline, while the men responded best to imipramine. It should be noted, however, that when the results were analyzed based upon whether the women had entered menopause, it was found that postmenopausal women responded equally well to both medications. The implication of this is, for unknown reasons, SSRIs work better in the presence of estrogen.