Need support now? Help is available. Call, text, or chat 988outbound call

Why Women Are at Greater Risk for Depression Than Men

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2024

Depression can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age, or background. However, research shows that women are more likely to experience depression than men. In fact, women are twice as likely to have depression than men.1

This gender gap in depression rates raises important questions about depression in women versus men. What factors contribute to this disparity?

Depression in women vs. men

Depression in women versus men comes down to various factors:1,2

  • Hormonal changes throughout a woman's life
  • Pregnancy and postpartum depression
  • Systemic inequalities
  • Trauma from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse

Hormonal changes throughout a woman's life

There is a clear link between women's sex hormones and the risk for anxiety and depression.2

Puberty

Puberty is an emotional rollercoaster for both boys and girls. During adolescence, girls experience a surge in hormones, which can affect mood regulation. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels may make girls more vulnerable to mood disorders like depression during this transitional period.1,2

These hormonal changes that come with puberty often occur earlier in girls than in boys. After puberty – during a woman's reproductive years – the rates of depression are higher among women than men.1,2

PMS and PMDD

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects nearly all women during their menstrual cycle. Symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, irritability, and sadness can intensify in the days leading up to a woman's period.1,2

Experts think that the changes in hormones during this time could impact chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood regulation. Therefore, PMS could make women more vulnerable to mood disorders like anxiety and depression, whereas men do not have this issue.1,2

Some women go on to develop premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). About 5 to 8 percent of women have PMDD. PMDD is a much more severe form of PMS, especially when it comes to changes in mood. While PMDD is more rare than PMS, it can greatly affect a woman's quality of life.1,2

Perimenopause and menopause

As women approach menopause, typically in their late 40s to early 50s, they undergo big hormonal changes. Fluctuating estrogen levels can trigger symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, and sleep problems. These symptoms – combined with the physical changes of aging – can increase the risk of depression in women during this stage of life.1,2

Pregnancy and postpartum depression

Pregnancy and childbirth are profound, life-altering events. But they also come with a heightened risk of depression for women. Postpartum depression (PPD), which results from extreme drops in estrogen and progesterone, can occur after giving birth.1,2

PPD is very common – 10 to 15 percent of women have postpartum depression. PPD is marked by intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, inability to care for one's newborn, and fatigue. Hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and the stress of caring for a newborn can all lead to the development of PPD.1,2

Systemic inequalities for women vs. men

Beyond the hormonal and physical changes that come with puberty, PMS, pregnancy, and menopause, societal and environmental influences play a crucial role in women's mental health. In today's society, women often face unequal power dynamics and systemic inequality. These things can lead to feelings of stress, inadequacy, frustration, lack of control, and low self-esteem.1,3

Unequal pay is just one glaring example. To date, women are still paid less than their male counterparts.3

Work overload, caregiving responsibilities, and the pressure to balance career and family can make these challenges worse, increasing the risk for depression in women.1,3

Trauma from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse

Unfortunately, many women have lived through emotional, sexual, and/or physical abuse at some point in their lives. The trauma of abuse has long-lasting effects on mental health.1

Women who have experienced abuse may struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness, making them more vulnerable to depression. These experiences increase the likelihood of having depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mood disorders.1

Getting support and treatment for depression

While women may be at a greater risk for depression than men, there is help available. Seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals can make a huge difference in managing depression. Therapy, medicine, lifestyle changes, and support groups are all effective treatment options for depression.1,2

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Depression.Mental-Health-Community.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Community Poll

Have you taken our Depression In America Survey yet?