HealthDay News — Gender differences in depression diagnosis and symptoms start to appear around the age of 12, according to research published in the Psychological Bulletin.

Researchers spent 2 years reviewing existing studies that involved a total of about 3.5 million people from more than 90 countries. The team looked at diagnoses of major depression as well as symptoms based on self-reported measures.

Overall, the investigators found that depression affects significantly more women than men. The study also found the gender gap appears 2 to 3 years earlier than previously thought. The gap tapers off after adolescence but remains nearly twice as high for women.

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“We used to think that the gender difference emerged at 13 to 15 years, but the better data we examined has pushed that down to age 12,” study coauthor Janet Hyde, PhD, a professor of psychology and gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a university news release. “We need to start before age 12 if we want to prevent girls from sliding into depression. Depression is often quite treatable. People don’t have to suffer and face increased risk for the many related health problems.”


Salk RH, Hyde JS, Abramson LY. Gender differences in depression in representative national samples: meta-analyses of diagnoses and symptoms [published online April 27, 2017]. Psychol Bull. doi:10.1037/bul0000102