Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 November 2017
Major depression (MD) occurs about twice as often in women as in men, but it is unclear whether sex differences subsist after disease onset. This study aims to elucidate potential sex differences in rates and risk factors for MD recurrence, in order to improve prediction of course of illness and understanding of its underlying mechanisms.
We used prospective data from a general population sample (n = 653) that experienced a recent episode of MD. A diverse set of potential risk factors for recurrence of MD was analyzed using Cox models subject to elastic net regularization for males and females separately. Accuracy of the prediction models was tested in same-sex and opposite-sex test data. Additionally, interactions between sex and each of the risk factors were investigated to identify potential sex differences.
Recurrence rates and the impact of most risk factors were similar for men and women. For both sexes, prediction models were highly multifactorial including risk factors such as comorbid anxiety, early traumas, and family history. Some subtle sex differences were detected: for men, prediction models included more risk factors concerning characteristics of the depressive episode and family history of MD and generalized anxiety, whereas for women, models included more risk factors concerning early and recent adverse life events and socioeconomic problems.
No prominent sex differences in risk factors for recurrence of MD were found, potentially indicating similar disease maintaining mechanisms for both sexes. Course of MD is a multifactorial phenomenon for both males and females.
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