The Lived Experience of Midlife Women With Major Depression

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Midlife, a significant developmental phase for women, is a period of biological, psychological, and social role changes. However, not all women transition smoothly into middle age, with those who experience depression typically bearing significantly greater physical and psychological discomforts in midlife. Despite the expanding body of research on women and depression, little is understood about how depressed women handle the midlife transition.


The aim of this study was to gain a deeper understanding about the lived experience of middle-aged women with major depression.


This study used a phenomenological design. Four women between 43 and 55 years old with a diagnosis of major depression were interviewed. There were seven transcripts in total. A 62-year-old depressed woman was also interviewed to verify the results.


After data analysis, “a harder life” emerged as the core of these women’s experiences. Two themes with two respective subthemes were identified. The theme “struggling to redefine the self” was associated with the subthemes “taking pills in the dump” and “the inane life.” The theme “swinging to develop new social interactions” was associated with the subthemes “being alienated from former social contacts” and “starting new social interactions.” Results indicate that the participants encountered greater challenges in adapting to middle age than their nondepressed peers.


Much adaptation and help are needed for depressed women to experience a smooth transition into midlife. In caring for these women, their interpersonal relationships with others should be the main target. Meanwhile, nurses must understand what challenges depressed women typically encounter in midlife based on the developmental perspective and then assess how pharmaceutical treatments impact the view of self of women.

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