Healthy Tips, Tension, Women's Health September 6th, 2008
Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) have found that women who feel more loved and supported by their relatives, friends, and children are less at risk for major depression than men, suggesting important gender differences in the factors leading to depression.
The VCU researchers reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, that among approximately 1,000 adult, opposite-sex, fraternal twin pairs, the female twins reported significantly higher levels of global social support than their twin brothers. More than men, women were more sensitive to the depressongenic effects of low levels of social support, particularly from the co-twin, other relatives, parents and spouses.
Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and human genetics in VCU’s School of Medicine and lead author on the study said that “In women, social support was a robust predictor of risk for depression,” “Women who saw themselves as more loved and cared for and objectively well integrated in positive social groups were well protected against later episodes of major depression.
However no such effect was seen among men. In the large sample no relationship was found in men between their levels of social support and their risk for depression. These findings indicated that men may be less sensitive to aspects of their social environment with respect to their risk for depression the researcher said.
An interview of opposite-sex fraternal twin pairs registered with VCU’s Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry was conducted by researchers. The first interview was conducted between 1993 and 1996, and the second interview was conducted between 1994 and 1998. At the time of the second interview, subjects were between the ages of 21 and 58 years old.
According to Kendler, it was right to study opposite-sex fraternal twin pairs because the population included women and men who were conceived at the same time, developed in the same uterus and raised in the same family. Factors differing among men and women otherwise were ruled out because this population was examined. The results showed that on average, inter-personal relationships are more central to and more valued by women than by men. Women are also more likely to seek emotional support in their social network more than men.