Gender Differences In Depression

Now that you have read and reviewed the material on biosocial development during emerging adulthood, take your learning a step further by testing your critical thinking skills on this perspective-taking exercise.

The symptoms of major depressive disorder are lethargy, loss of interest in family, friends, and activities, and feelings of worthlessness that last two weeks or longer without any notable cause. During adulthood, women are diagnosed with depression roughly twice as often as men. (Interestingly, among college-age women and men, the gender difference in depression is much smaller.) More generally, women appear to be more vulnerable than men to passive (internalized) psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. In contrast, men are generally more vulnerable to active (externalized) psychological disorders, including drug abuse, antisocial conduct, and poor impulse control. This exercise asks you to examine the gender difference in the diagnosis of active and passive psychological disorders, first by thinking critically about this issue and then by reviewing ongoing research regarding its origins.

  1. What factors in the biosocial domain might account for women’s greater susceptibility to depression and other “passive” disorders?
  2. What factors in the cognitive domain might account for women’s greater susceptibility to depression?
  3. What factors in the psychosocial domain might account for this gender difference?
  4. Some have suggested that the gender difference may be the result of a gender bias in the diagnostic process. That is, doctors and clinicians expect women to suffer from depression more often and, consequently, are more vigilant in finding symptoms that confirm this expectation. As a researcher, how would you test this hypothesis?
  5. Compare your answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 to the information provided by NIMH and the APA. Then briefly summarize the latest evidence regarding the biosocial, cognitive, and psychosocial factors in depression in general, and women’s greater vulnerability, in particular. 1(To complete this question, consult the websites for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) ( and the American Psychological Association  (