Skip to main content Accessibility help

Is Sex Necessarily a Risk Factor to Depression?

  • Tirril Harris (a1), Paul Surtees (a2) and John Bancroft (a3)


“To isolate and quantify possible determinants of any increased prevalence of depressive disorders in women we studied a select group of men and women, initially similar in terms of a number of putative social determinants of depression, and reviewed the sample five years later when social role diversity was anticipated. We used the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) to generate DSM–III and RDC diagnoses to estimate lifetime depressive disorders, and established (via corroborative reports) the likely accuracy of those data. Despite lifetime depression being a relatively common experience, no significant sex differences in depressive episodes were demonstrated, suggesting the possible irrelevance of biological factors in determining any sex difference. As there was not major social role divergence over the five year study, we interpret the lack of a sex difference as a consequence, and suggest that findings support the view that social factors are of key relevance in determining any female preponderance in depression described in general population studies.”



Hide All
Bancroft, J. & Sartorius, N. (1990) The effects of oral contraceptives on the well being and sexuality of women. Oxford Reviews of Reproductive Biology, 5792.
Bebbington, P. E., Dean, C., Der, G., et al (1991) Gender, parity and the prevalence of minor affective disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 4045.
Endicott, J., Halbreich, U., Schacht, S., et al (1981) Premenstrual changes and affective disorders. Psychosomatic Medicine, 43, 519529.
Gater, R. A., Dean, C. & Morris, J. (1989) The contribution of childbearing to the sex difference in first admission rates for affective psychosis. Psychological Medicine, 19, 719724.
Gilligan, C. (1982) In a Different Voice. Cambridge, MA: Havard University Press.
Halbreich, U. & Endicott, J. (1985) Relationship of dysphoric pre–menstrual changes to depressive disorders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 71, 331338.
Jenkins, R. (1985) Sex differences in minor psychiatric morbidity. Psychological Medicine, suppl. 7.
Kendell, R. E., Chalmers, J. C. & Platz, C. (1987) Epidemiology of puerperal psychoses. British Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 662673.
Nolen–Hoeksema, S. (1987) Sex differences in unipolar depression: evidence and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 259282.
Oakley–Browne, M. A., Joyce, P. R., Wells, J. E., et al (1989) Christchurch Psychiatric Epidemiology Study, Part II: Six month and other period prevalences of specific psychiatric disorders. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 23, 327340.
Parker, G. (1987) Are the lifetime prevalence estimates in the ECA study accurate? Psychological Medicine, 17, 275282.
Reoier, D. A., Myers, J. K., Dramer, M., et al (1984) The NIMH Epidemiologic Catchment Area program: historical context, major objectives and study population characteristics. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41, 934941.
Robins, L. N., Helzer, J. E., Crouch an, J., et al (1981) National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Its history, characteristics and validity. Archives of General Psychiatry, 38, 381389.
Robins, L. N., Helzer, J. E., Weissman, M. M., et al (1984) Lifetime prevalence of specific psychiatric disorders in three sites. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41, 949958.
Romans–Clarkson, S. E., Walton, V. A., Herbison, G. P., et al (1988) Marriage, motherhood and psychiatric morbidity in New Zealand. Psychological Medicine, 18, 983990.
Rubinow, D. R., Roy–Byrne, P. P., Moban, M. C., et al (1986) Pre–menstrual mood change: characteristic patterns in women with and without pre-menstrual syndrome. Journal of Affective Disorders, 10, 8590.
Shaw, C. (1989) Recent trends in family size and family building. Population Trends, 58, 1922.
Veevers, J. E. (1973) Parenthood and suicide: an examination of a neglected variable. Social Science and Medicine, 7, 135144.
Warner, P. & Bancroft, J. (1990) Factors related to self–reporting of the premenstrual syndrome. British Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 249260.
Weissman, M. M., Leaf, P. J., Tischler, G. L., et al (1988) Affective disorders in five United States communities. Psychological Medicine, 18, 141153.
Wells, J. E., Bushnell, J. A., Hornblow, A. R., et al (1989) Christchurch Psychiatric Epidemiology Study, Part I: Methodology and lifetime prevalence for specific psychiatric disorders. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 23, 315326.
Wilhelm, K. & Parker, G. (1989) Is sex necessarily a risk factor depression? Psychological Medicine, 19, 401413.
Young, M. A., Fogg, L. F., Scheftner, W. A., et al (1990) Sex differences in the lifetime prevalence of depression: does varying the diagnostic criteria reduce the female/male ratio? Journal of Affective Disorders, 18, 187192.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

Is Sex Necessarily a Risk Factor to Depression?

  • Tirril Harris (a1), Paul Surtees (a2) and John Bancroft (a3)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *