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DEPRESSION IN WOMEN

Depression is not restricted to a particular group of women. It cuts across race, class, and social categories. Depression statistics available in past and present research are not indicative of real numbers in regards to treatment and the actual problem. This is due to the misdiagnosis 30-50% of the time and the fact that less than 1/2 of depression sufferers ever seek care (1). The statistics below are based on the number of people who seek help for depression and/or on studies conducted through surveys on specific populations.           

When looking at depression statistics, think about the following questions.
1. What role does experience play in an individual's mental health?
2. How does being in a certain group (for example, belonging in a specific race or class) of people influence whether someone will be diagnosed with depression?  
3. Are people who are not as valued in our society more likely to experience depression?

Overall Population Dimension  

Women experience depression approximately twice the rate of men. (1)             

12 million women in the United States experience depression every year (1)        

Approximately 1% of women born around the World War II era would experience severe depression in their lifetime (1a).  Between 12-15% of women born in the 1970's have already experienced at least one serious depressive episode (1a). 

Overall, one out of eight women will develop depression during their lifetime (1)

Only one of three women who experience depression will seek care (9).           

Approximately 15% of those hospitalized for severe depression will commit suicide. (1)

About 70% of antidepressant prescriptions are given to women, often with misdiagnosis and inadequate monitoring (10).             

Age Dimension

Major depression often occurs in the mid to late 20's, occurring most frequently in women 25 - 44 years of age (1)

Depression rates in children are about equal until adolescence when girls become twice as likely to get depression than boys (2)

Elderly women are more likely to suffer from depression than are elderly men (2)

Depression is not more likely to occur at menopause than at other stages of life (2)

Social Class Dimension

Depression Rates are not clearly related to income or socioeconomic status, but there are some interesting correlations that occur.

Some studies have shown that bipolar disorder is more common among upper than lower classes (3)

Depression is more frequent among the unemployed and less educated (3)

People with economic problems or those with lower socioeconomic status have higher levels of depressive symptoms (10).

Women and children represent 75% of the U.S. population considered poor, making the possibility of poverty being a pathway to depression (4, 5)

Race Dimension

Women of color are more likely than Caucasian women to experience a number of socioeconomic risk factors for depression: discrimination, low education and income levels, segregation into low status/high stress jobs, poor health, single parenthood.  In addition, minority women often are not able to get the proper treatment.

Women confronting the impact of immigration and acculturation report higher levels of depression (10).

Asian American Women over 65 years of age have the highest female suicide rate among all ethnic/ racial groups.  Asian American adolescent females (ages 15 -24) have the highest depression and suicide rates among all women within the same age range (6).

African American Women are less likely to suffer from depression (16%)  than Caucasian women (22%), but almost half of those suffering are afflicted with severe depression (6).  *Published clinical research on this population is very scarce.

Hispanic Women have the highest lifetime rates of depression  (24%) among all women (6)..  One study showed that the longer a Mexican women lives in the United States the greater the risk for depression

Therapy for women of different ethnic backgrounds should be "culturally embedded."  The fact they often are not may be a reason why women do not seek help for depression.  Please see Feminist Therapy section.

 

Sexual Preference Dimension    

In a study conducted by the Justice Resource Institute Health, almost 50% of lesbians surveyed had experienced depression within the previous two years (7).           

Lesbian youths are two to six times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth (8).   

Over 30% of all reported teen suicides each year are committed by gay and lesbian youth (8).  

Married women are more likely to be depressed than unmarried women (10).   

Married women with children have higher rates of depression than do married women without children (10).  Their perceived low status and isolation that occurs with the role of mother may be a contributing factor.          

 

Other Risk Factors          

Victimization:  37% of women have experienced sexual and or physical abuse by the age of 21 (4).  Women molested as children are more likely to experience depression during their lifetime than are those with no such history (2).  Women who are raped as adults experience a higher incidence of depression than women who were not (2).   

Personality and Psychology:  Data indicate that women with particular characteristics- low self esteem, passive, pessimistic thinking, and excessive worrying are more likely to develop depression (1,2,4).  Some studies show that lesbians may be at a higher risk for depression (4).   There is a strong relationship between eating disorders and depression, and one out of every three depressed people suffer from some from of substance abuse or dependence (4).         

Women's Attitudes and Beliefs Toward Depression (1).   

A National Mental Health Association Survey Showed that more than 50% of women: 

  • believe that it is normal for a woman to be depressed during menopause and that treatment is not necessary         
  • believe depression is a "normal parts of aging"  
  • believe it is normal for a mother to feel depressed for at least two weeks after giving birth cited denial as a barrier to treatment         
  • think they "know" more about depression than men       
  • 41% of women surveyed cited embarrassment or shame as barriers to treatment.            

Sources:
1.  NMHA MHIC: Depression in Women Factsheet-  www.nmha.org (redue) 
1a.  Lasn, Kalle and Bruce Grierson.  "Malignant Sadness: American Psyche." Adbusters No.30: 31, June/July 2000. 
2.  National Institute of Mental Health, NIH Publication No. 95-3981.  "The Many Dimensions of Depression in Women: Women at Risk." http://minisite.medscape.com/celexa/basic_manydimensions.htm; 
3.  Regier et al, Archives of General Psychiatry 41: 934-41, 1984. 
4.  American Psychological Association.  "What You Should Know About Women and Depression." http://design-smart.com/therapist/pubinfo/depress.html#special 
5.  "The Dimensions of Depression in Women."  http://www.psychologyinfo.com/depression/women.htm 
6.  Office on Women's Health, Washington, D.C. "Minoirty Women's Health Concerns."  http://www.4woman.gov/owh/pub/minority/index.html 
7.  Twyman, A. Peter.  "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Young Adult Survey."  Justice Resource Institute Health, 1995. http://www.glbthealth.org/lgbyadult.html
8.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide: Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide." (1989).
9.  Organoninc.com.  Facts: Clinical Depression & Women (http://www.organoninc.com)
10. American Psychological Association.  "Facts About Women and Depression." June 14, 1999.  http://www.apa.org/ppo/womenanddepress.html