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Original Investigation |

The Experience of Symptoms of Depression in Men vs Women:  Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication

Lisa A. Martin, PhD1; Harold W. Neighbors, PhD2; Derek M. Griffith, PhD3,4
[+] Author Affiliations
1Women’s & Gender Studies and Health Policy Studies, University of Michigan, Dearborn
2Program for Research on Black Americans, Institute for Social Research, Center on Men’s Health Disparities, Department of Health Behavior & Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
3Center on Men’s Health Disparities, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
4now with the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(10):1100-1106. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1985.
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Importance  When men are depressed they may experience symptoms that are different than what is included in the current diagnostic criteria.

Objective  To explore whether sex disparities in depression rates disappear when alternative symptoms are considered in the place of, or in addition to, more conventional depression symptoms.

Design, Setting, Participants, and Main Outcomes and Measures  Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a nationally represented mental health survey, we evaluated sex differences in symptom endorsement in 2 new scales that included alternative depression symptoms. We analyzed sex differences in symptom endorsement using 2-sided, design-based, .05-level t tests and multivariate logistic regression to identify predictors of depression.

Results  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%) than women (21.9%) (P = .007) 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% of men and 33.3% of women (P = .57).

Conclusions and Relevance  When alternative and traditional symptoms are combined, sex disparities in the prevalence of depression are eliminated. Further study is needed to clarify which symptoms truly describe men’s experiences of depression.

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