Background. Women are consistently reported to
have a greater prevalence of depressive disorders
than men. The reason for this is unclear, and is as likely to be
social as biological. There is some
evidence that the excess of depression is greater during women's
reproductive lives. Data from the
National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity were used to test the
hypothesis that the excess
disappeared in the post-menopausal years and that obvious social
explanations for this were inadequate.
Method. Subjects (N=9792) from a random sample of
the British population provided data for
the analysis. Psychiatric assessment was carried out by lay
interviewers using the CIS-R. Subjects
with ICD-10 depressive episode or mixed anxiety/depression
were compared with the remainder.
Social variables that were likely to contribute to a post-menopausal
decline in depressive disorders
were controlled in logistic regression analyses.
Results. There was a clear reversal of the sex difference
in prevalence of depression in those over age
55. This could not be explained in terms of differential effects of
marital status, child care, or employment status.
Conclusions. This large and representative survey adds
considerably to the increasingly held view
that the sex difference in prevalence of depression is less apparent
in later middle age. This may be
linked to the menopause, and our attempts to explain it in terms of
obvious conditions among social
variables were not successful. More specific studies are required to
clarify the finding.