Gender Differences in the Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

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Data from the Canadian Community Health Survey 1.2 were used for a gender analysis of individual symptoms and overall rates of depression in the preceding 12 months. Major depressive disorder was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview in this national, cross-sectional survey. The female to male ratio of major depressive disorder prevalence was 1.64:1, with n = 1766 having experienced depression (men 668, women 1098). Women reported statistically more depressive symptoms than men (p < 0.001). Depressed women were more likely to report “increased appetite” (15.5% vs. 10.7%), being “often in tears” (82.6% vs. 44.0%), “loss of interest” (86.9% vs. 81.1%), and “thoughts of death” (70.3% vs. 63.4%). No significant gender differences were found for the remaining symptoms. The data are interpreted against women's greater tendency to cry and to restrict food intake when not depressed. The question is raised whether these items preferentially bias assessment of gender differences in depression, particularly in nonclinic samples.

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