Women, Men, and Depression

Although depression strikes both men and women, they differ in prevalence and symptoms. Women are twice as likely to develop depression. Mental health experts estimate that 10 to 20 percent of women will likely suffer from major depression at some point in their lives, compared to less than 10 percent of men.

General Depression Symptoms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, both men and women typically experience these common signs of depression.

  • Persistent, sad, or empty feelings
  • A sense of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Unexplainable aches and pains

Gender Differences

Biological and psychosocial factors make women more vulnerable to depression. In general, women have a lower socioeconomic status and are more prone to stressful life events. They may also suffer from depression during different reproductive stages, including puberty, monthly menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause due to hormonal changes. Women are even more susceptible to seasonal depression.

While less common, depression in men is frequently more severe. According to the Mayo Clinic, depressed men tend to employ unhealthy coping behaviors. For example, they may try to escape their depression by working excessively or abusing alcohol and drugs. Men may also exhibit inappropriate anger and controlling, violent, or abusive behavior. Some men engage in risky behavior, such as reckless driving, infidelity, and unhealthy sexual relations.

Depressed women often experience anxiety as well when they are depressed. They have higher rates of eating disorders and other co-existing mental health conditions. Women are also more likely to blame themselves for their depression, to avoid conflict, and to have trouble setting appropriate boundaries.

Men, on the other hand, tend to be suspicious or guarded. They intentionally create conflict and have a strong need to feel in control. Furthermore, men typically downplay symptoms of depression and, unlike women, are reluctant to discuss how they feel or seek mental health treatment.

Unfortunately, mental health experts expect the rate of depression in men to climb due to economic and social changes. Many typically male-dominated jobs are disappearing and women are increasingly providing the majority of household income. Since men tend to attach greater importance to their roles as provider and protector, failure to be the breadwinner may contribute to the projected growth in depression incidence.

Regardless of gender, depression is a treatable condition. If you suspect you or a loved one is depressed, talk to your family doctor or a mental health professional.

This article was reviewed by Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Psychologist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, FL#7132.


National Institute of Mental Health. "Women and Depression: Discovering Hope." Web. 26 March 2012.


Brooks, Megan. "Depression in Men Predicted to Rise." Medscape Medical News. Web. 1 March 2011.


Desai, Hiral D., Jann, Michael W. "Major Depression in Women: A Review of the Literature." Journal of the American Pharmacists Association 40(4) (2000). Medscape Medical News. Web. 1 July 2000. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/406695

Mayo Clinic. "Male Depression: Understanding the Issues." Web. 12 November 2010.


Robinson, Lawrence, Segal, Jeanne, Ph.D., and Smith, Melinda, M.A. "Depression in Men." HelpGuide.org. Web. May 2012. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_men_male.htm