February 10, 2005
Love Beats Depression for Women, Not Men
Relationships study found big gender differences
HealthDay News -- Love may banish the blues for women more easily than for men, according to a new study.
Supportive, loving relationships offer women protection against major depression but don't seem to play a role in male depression, say researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In their study of 1,000 pairs of adult, opposite-sex, fraternal twins, the Virginia team found that the female twins were more apt to fall into depression if they felt they received low levels of emotional support from spouses, parents and other relatives, compared to their brothers.
"In women, social support was a robust predictor of risk for depression," study lead author Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, a professor of psychiatry and human genetics, said in a prepared statement.
"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," he added.
"However, among the men we found virtually no effect. In this large sample, we could find no relationship in men between their levels of social support and their risk for depression. These findings suggest that men may be more 'immune' or less sensitive to aspects of their social environment with respect to their risk for depression," Kendler said.
The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
The findings suggest there are important differences between women and men in the factors leading to depression. According to Kendler, research suggests women tend to look for contentment in inter-personal relationships, whereas men are less likely to do so.
That doesn't mean men are always happy on their own, however. "While the impact of low social support on risk for major depression appears to be less pronounced in men than in women, males may be more sensitive to the adverse health effects of social isolation than are females," Kendler said.
The National Institute of Mental Health has more on depression.