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[psychiatry-research] Researchers offer reasons why women experience depression more than men do

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  • Ian Pitchford
    FOR RELEASE: 31 OCTOBER 1999 AT 18:00 ET US American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/ Researchers offer reasons why women experience depression
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 1999
      FOR RELEASE: 31 OCTOBER 1999 AT 18:00 ET US
      American Psychological Association
      http://www.apa.org/

      Researchers offer reasons why women experience depression more than men do

      Personality characteristics and social conditions play role

      WASHINGTON--Researchers have known for years that women experience depression
      more often than men do, but the reason for this gender difference has not been
      clear. A new study, published in the November issue of the American
      Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
      provides some answers by showing how social conditions and personality
      characteristics affect each other and contribute to the gender differences in
      depressive symptoms.

      In the study, psychologists Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., and Carla Grayson,
      Ph.D., of the University of Michigan and Judith Larson, Ph.D., of Atherton, CA,
      interviewed 1,100 adults between the ages of 25 and 75 years old from three
      ethnically diverse California cities. Results suggest that women may more often
      than men get caught in a cycle of despair and passivity because of the
      interaction of lower mastery (lower sense of control) over important areas of
      life and more chronic strain and rumination (chronically and passively thinking
      about feelings). For these women, more chronic strain led to more rumination
      over time, and more rumination led to more chronic strain over time.

      The study's authors say the chronic strain the women in the study reported were
      "the grinding annoyances and burdens that come with women's lower social power.
      Women carried a greater load of the housework and child care and more of the
      strain of parenting than did men." The authors also found women felt less
      appreciated by their partners than men did.

      "Rumination may maintain chronic strain because it drains people of the
      motivation, persistence, and problem-solving skills to change their
      situations," said the authors. "Failing to do what one can to overcome
      stressful situations such as an unfulfilling marriage or an inequitable
      distribution of labor at home perpetuates these situations." While this study
      cannot answer the question of which comes first, rumination or chronic strain,
      the researchers say the interaction of the two makes it more difficult to
      overcome either one.

      So what is a depressed woman, under chronic strain and ruminating or lacking a
      belief that she can control her life, to do? The authors conclude "helping
      women achieve a greater sense of control over their circumstances and engage in
      problem solving rather than ruminating should be useful. Changing the social
      circumstances that many women face so that they do not have so much to ruminate
      about is equally important."

      Article: "Explaining the Gender Difference in Depressive Symptoms," Susan
      Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., and Carla Grayson, Ph.D., University of Michigan; and
      Judith Larson, Ph.D., Atherton, California, Journal of Personality and Social
      Psychology, Vol. 77, No. 5.

      Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., can be reached at (734) 764-0693 or email
      Nolen@...

      The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest
      scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United
      States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's
      membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians,
      consultants and students. Through its divisions in 52 subfields of psychology
      and affiliations with 59 state, territorial and Canadian provincial
      associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and
      as a means of promoting human welfare.
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