Rates of Depression Among Men and Women Appear Similar When Traditional and Alternative Depression Symptoms Are Combined

When traditional and alternative symptoms of depression are combined, it appears sex disparities in the prevalence of depression among men and women are eliminated, according to a study published by JAMA Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication. 

“When men are depressed they may experience symptoms that are different than what is included in current diagnostic criteria,” Lisa A. Martin, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, writes in the study background.

Using data from a nationally represented mental health survey of 3,310 women and 2,382 men, the researchers explored whether sex disparities in depression rates disappear when alternative symptoms are considered in the place of, or in addition to, more conventional depression symptoms.

Men reported higher rates of anger attacks/aggression, substance abuse, and risk taking compared with women. Analyses using the scale that included alternative, male-type symptoms of depression found that a higher proportion of men (26.3 percent) than women (21.9 percent) met criteria for depression. Analyses using the scale that included alternative and traditional depression symptoms found that men and women met criteria for depression in equal proportions, 30.6 percent of men and 33.3 percent of women, according to the study results.

The study concludes, “the results of this work have the potential to bring significant advances to the field in terms of the perception and measurement of depression. These findings could lead to important changes in the way depression is conceptualized and measured.”

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online August 28, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1985