Depression is a common mental health condition. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, (NIMH) 7.8 percent of American adults experience one or more episodes of depression over the course of a year, which is equal to 19.4 million adults in the U.S. One belief that exists in regards to depression is that women are more likely to become depressed than men are. There may be some truth to this fact, as 2019 data show that the prevalence of depression is 9.6 percent in adult females compared to 6 percent in males. Depression is significantly more likely among adolescent females compared to males, as well. During the teenage years, 23 percent of females experience depression within a given year, compared to 8.8 percent of males.
Women of various age groups appear to be at increased risk of depression when compared to men. To fully understand the increased depression risk in women, it is helpful to take a look at the entire body of research on the prevalence and to consider the reasons that women are at elevated risk of living with symptoms of depression when compared to their male counterparts.
Recent Research Assessing Depression Prevalence
While data from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that depression is more common in women than among men, this is not the only existing data on depression prevalence, and it is important to look at a variety of sources. According to a February 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8.1 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and older experienced depression within a given 2-week period, with women being nearly twice as likely as men to report depression. Per the CDC report, 10.4 percent of women, compared to 5.5 percent of men, experienced a depressive episode within a 2-week period. These data appear to be in agreement with those reported by the NIMH, providing additional evidence that women are more likely to experience depression than men are.
Interestingly, it isn’t just in the United States that women are more at risk of depression. A study in Scientific Reports analyzed the results of 90 different studies that explored depression rates across the globe over a 20-year period, and findings indicated that worldwide depression was significantly higher in women (14.4 percent) than in men (11.5 percent). There is strong evidence, collected in numerous studies, that women are more likely to experience depression when compared to men, which suggests that women are, in fact, more at risk of depression.
What’s behind the elevated depression risk in women?
There is credible data that suggests women are more at risk of depression when compared to men, which has led researchers to explore the factors behind this discrepancy. Some of the science suggests that genetics could be behind women’s increased depression risk. In fact, a 2020 study in Scientific Reports identified five genetic markers that could increase the risk of depression in women, and the study’s authors concluded that women may inherit gene variants that place them at elevated risk of depression.
Beyond genetics, the body of research on depression prevalence has suggested that the following factors may be linked to women’s increased depression risk:
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Specific depressive disorders like postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- The fact that men and women are biologically different, with men having an X and Y chromosome and women having two X chromosomes
Another possibility is that depression symptoms may appear slightly different in men versus women, which can result in underlying depression going undetected in men. For example, one study in a leading psychiatry journal found that sex differences in depression prevalence were eliminated when considering alternative symptoms, including anger, aggression, risk-taking, and substance abuse, that men are more likely to display. It may not be that men are truly less likely to be depressed than women are; instead, it may be that women display symptoms that fall more in line with the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder, whereas men demonstrate externalizing behaviors, like anger, when depressed.
Treatment for Depression
Regardless of whether men and women show different depression symptoms, or differing prevalence rates for depression, the reality is that depression treatment is often necessary for individuals living with this mental health condition. As data from the NIMH show, 5.3 percent of American adults experience depression with major impairment within a given year, which can make it difficult to maintain a household, fulfill family obligations, and meet responsibilities at work.
Fortunately, effective treatment is available. Per the NIMH, antidepressant medications can take a few weeks to work, but they can relieve depression symptoms. Medication is often paired with talk therapy approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help people overcome depression. In therapy, patients work with a counselor to help them process feelings and develop healthier ways of thinking.
While a combination of therapy and medication is often effective for treating depression, not everyone experiences significant symptom relief with these methods. In this case, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an alternative option. This is a non-invasive treatment modality that serves as an alternative to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which can sometimes cause serious side effects, like confusion, memory loss, and disorientation.
At Pulse TMS, treatment sessions last just 18 minutes, and our staff work to keep you as comfortable as possible while an electromagnetic coil is placed against your forehead to deliver small electromagnetic pulses that activate areas of the brain associated with mood. If you haven’t received full relief from depression with medication and/or counseling, TMS may provide you with the symptom relief you are seeking. Call us today if you have additional questions or would like to get started with treatment.