Gender Differences in Depression

Signs of depression in men and signs of depression in women can reveal themselves very differently.

gender differences in depression

Depression is more likely to result in anxiety and physical symptoms in women than in men.

© Denis Andreev |

Am I depressed? That question is posed somewhere in the world countless times each day. Even though depression is widespread and considered a serious condition, it can manifest very differently in men and women.

While most statistics indicate that depression occurs twice as frequently in women as men, some experts suspect that men suffer from the condition much more than we recognize. However, men typically don’t show the same signs of depression as women do, and so they’re often not correctly diagnosed.

Below, we address some of the key differences in how depression affects women and men.

Signs of Depression in Women

There’s a real gender gap when it comes to depression. Women face double the risk of the condition compared to men, in part due to hormonal differences and in part because of the way they deal emotionally with stressful life events (such as a divorce or the loss of a loved one). Depression often coexists with other health and mental conditions that have a higher prevalence in women, such as eating and anxiety disorders and multiple sclerosis.

The symptoms of depression are often different in women than they are in men, but this may be in part related to men having symptoms that are not usually considered in the diagnosis of depression. Women are more likely to experience anxiety and physical symptoms. They also tend to overeat and gain more weight.

In fact, there’s a close relationship between obesity and depression, particularly in women, and doctors may need to screen for depression more often in obese women. Obese women are nearly four times more likely to be depressed than women of normal weight. The same association doesn’t seem to be true for obese men.

Unfortunately, depression can take a big toll on women. Depression is the No. 1 cause of disability in women. Although more men actually take their own lives, women attempt suicide almost twice as often. Depression has been linked with a higher risk of coronary heart disease and of sudden cardiac death in women.

Yet despite these many risks, fewer than half of women with clinical depression ever seek treatment.

Men, perceived as the more stoic gender, are more likely to gloss over such symptoms as fatigue and low self-esteem, but can experience chronic depression nonetheless.

Men, perceived as the more stoic gender, are more likely to gloss over such symptoms as fatigue and low self-esteem, but can experience chronic depression nonetheless. Credit: © Katarzyna Bialasiewicz |

Depression in Men

Although women face double the risk, depression afflicts millions of men worldwide, and recent research suggests that men actually suffer from depression nearly as often as women but just show it in different ways.

Depression often manifests differently in men. While women tend to turn their emotions inward and feel worthless and guilty, men tend to reflect their emotions outward, sometimes becoming angry or aggressive or turning to alcohol or illicit drugs.

Because men are traditionally perceived as the stronger, more stoic gender, they are more likely to gloss over depression symptoms such as a lack of interest in life, fatigue, and low self-esteem. They might fear that revealing their condition will make them look weak or overly emotional to their family, friends, and colleagues.

Depression in women can be linked to hormonal balances, but the same is true of depression in men. New research suggests that men whose testosterone levels are in the borderline range have a higher rate of depression.

Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Alison Palkhivala

Alison Palkhivala is an award-winning writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle, nutrition, health, and medicine. She has authored the Belvoir special report Overcoming Depression and the University Health News book … Read More

View all posts by Alison Palkhivala

Enter Your Login Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.