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Psychol Med. 2004 Apr;34(3):461-70.

Is the female preponderance in major depression secondary to a gender difference in specific anxiety disorders?

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  • 1School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Mood Disorders Unit and Black Dog Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, NSW, Australia.



While a female preponderance in unipolar depression is a consistent finding in community-based studies, determinants remain speculative. This study aimed to examine whether a female preponderance in certain anxiety disorders drives a gender difference in depression.


The relevant data from the National Comorbidity Study (NCS) are analysed.


We observed a biphasic pattern in the emergence of a female preponderance in the depressive and anxiety disorders, with an initial pre-pubertal or early adolescent onset, and after attenuation in early to middle adulthood, re-emergence in mid- to late-adulthood. Analyses focused on determinants of the initial female preponderance. Female gender, presence of an anxiety disorder and variable ages of onset in the anxiety disorder all contributed to the increased chance of an initial depressive episode. Some specificity in linking the onset of depressive temporally in early adolescence with two anxiety disorders was demonstrated, specifically generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.


The separate anxiety disorders and their age of onset had variable links with depression, but female gender remained a significant predictor of depression after accounting for the effects of prior anxiety.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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