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Sex differences in event-related risk for major depression

  • P. K. MACIEJEWSKI (a1), H. G. PRIGERSON (a1) and C. M. MAZURE (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 May 2001

Background. This study sought to determine if women are more likely than men to experience an episode of major depression in response to stressful life events.

Method. Sex differences in event-related risk for depression were examined by means of secondary analyses employing data from the Americans' Changing Lives study. The occurrence and time of occurrence of depression onset and instances of stressful life events within a 12-month period preceding a structured interview were documented in a community-based sample of 1024 men and 1800 women. Survival analytical techniques were used to examine sex differences in risk for depression associated with generic and specific stressful life events.

Results. Women were approximately three times more likely than men to experience major depression in response to any stressful life event. Women and men did not differ in risk for depression associated with the death of a spouse or child, events affecting their relationship to a spouse/partner (divorce and marital/love problems) or events corresponding to acute financial or legal difficulties. Women were at elevated risk for depression associated with more distant interpersonal losses (death of a close friend or relative) and other types of events (change of residence, physical attack, or life-threatening illness/injury).

Conclusion. Stressful life events overall, with some exceptions among specific event types, pose a greater risk for depression among women compared to men.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Paul K. Maciejewski, Donaghue Women's Health Investigator Program, Yale University School of Medicine, PO Box 208091, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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