Conference Paper Society for the Study of Social Problems Annual Meeting
The Emergence of Gender Differences in Depression during Adolescence: national panel results from the USA, Canada and Great Britain
12 Aug 2000
One of the most robust findings in psychiatric epidemiology concerns the gender gap in depression between men and women. A much less uniform relationship is observed between gender and depression when other age groups are examined specifically children and older adults. Among adolescents, some studies find no differences in depression by gender. Others identify a gender gap that emerges in late adolescence, usually after the age of 15. These equivocal findings may simply reflect inconsistencies in the literature concerning the appropriate age range with which to capture the adolescent period. To address this inconsistency, we present an examination of the emergence of the gender gap in depression across three national longitudinal panel studies of adolescent girls and boys from three different countries: 1) the National Population Health Survey from Canada employs the short form CIDI across 2 waves providing a 12-month prevalence rate of major depression for youths between 12 and 19 at Wave 1; 2) the British Youth Panel from Great Britain employs a constructed scale of three items measuring depressive symptoms across four annual waves for 11 to 15 year olds; 3) the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health from the USA uses a 16-item subset from the CES-D across two waves for 12 to 18 year olds. The results suggest that when the total age ranges are examined for each sample, females have significantly higher levels of depression. However, when each sample is decomposed by age, the gender gap in depression consistently emerges by age 14 across all three populations irrespective of the measure employed. Identification of the age of emergence of gender differences in depression provides important etiologic clues concerning underlying causes of the gender gap in depression. Moreover, it identifies the specific age where treatment and intervention strategies should be directed in an effort to prevent or minimize long-term mental health related problems over the life course.