Depression's Double Standard. Why depression affects women more than men.

Essay by meyerrCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 2003

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Kristen Leutwyler's article in Scientific American magazine points out how much more severely women are affected by depression than men. Over the past few years, researchers have been studying numerous cases of depression and have found that in nearly every case, women are affected by depression nearly twice as much as men. This phenomenon went undiscovered for quite a while and even since it's discovery, little has been done to determine why this is. Scientists are fairly certain that this change does not arise from genes, because both sexes would have equal chances of getting it if that was the case.

The National Institute of Mental Health studied blood flow patterns in men and women who were feeling sad to determine brain activity in different areas. They found that the left prefrontal cortex was activated equally in both sexes, but the blood flow in women's anterior limbic system was eight times greater than that of the men.

This discovery has caused some neurologists to speculate that over time, the anterior limbic system could overwork itself and lead to clinical depression.

My Psychology 100 class hasn't studied depression yet, so I looked ahead to read about it. It says that depression, as well as, anxiety, and inhibited sexual desire; all are more common in women. It also shows a chart of depression patterns among men and women around the world. In nearly every country, the women were diagnosed with depression twice as often as the men, but in some cases, such as Taiwan and Puerto Rico, the difference is not nearly as prominent as it is in the U.S.

There is not anything that can be done at this point to prevent or cut down on the amount of depression affecting women, but now that we better understand what's going on...