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Twice as many women as men succumb to depression during any given year.

Scientists can't yet explain this huge gender gap, but they have some theories about what makes women more vulnerable:

Hormonal differences

Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone during a monthly menstrual cycle cause premenstrual syndrome, and in some women, may cause a very severe form of PMS known as PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a form of cyclical depression.

PMDD causes symptoms of PMS severe enough to cause problems in daily life.

Pregnancy

Having a baby increases a woman's chances of depression. The causes of postpartum depression remain unknown, but are likely a combination of hormonal and environmental factors, combined with the stress of care giving.

Infertility may also cause stress, anxiety and depressed mood, which may lead to a clinical condition.

Menopause

The fluctuating hormonal levels of perimenopause and menopause, as well as the changing estrogen levels after menopause, can all increase a woman's risk of depressive symptoms.

Women who experienced an earlier in life episode of depression may be at greater risk during menopause.

Poverty

Living in poverty increases the risks of depression. Women, especially single mothers, are at greater risk of poverty than men.

Discrimination

Women may experience lower pay or underemployment as a consequence of their gender. Stress, powerlessness and frustration emerging from discrimination can increase the risks of depression.

Care Giving Stress

Stress is a major cause of depression and women are at greater risk of care giving stress. Women are more likely to be single parents than men and are more likely the caregiver tending to the needs of multi generational extended family relatives.

Trauma or Abuse

Women are more likely than men to suffer sexual abuse or trauma.

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Page last updated Sep 29, 2012

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