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J Abnorm Psychol. 2010 Nov;119(4):791-803. doi: 10.1037/a0020629.

Gender differences in life events prior to onset of major depressive disorder: the moderating effect of age.

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Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Theoretical models attempting to explain why approximately twice as many women as men suffer from depression often involve the role of stressful life events. However, detailed empirical evidence regarding gender differences in rates of life events that precede onset of depression is lacking, due in part to the common use of checklist assessments of stress that have been shown to possess poor validity. The present study reports on a combined sample of 375 individuals drawn from 4 studies in which all participants were diagnosed with major depressive disorder and assessed with the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule (Bifulco et al., 1989), a state-of-the-art contextual interview and life stress rating system. Women reported significantly more severe and nonsevere, independent and dependent, and other-focused and subject-focused life events prior to onset of depression than did men. Further, these relations were significantly moderated by age, such that gender differences in rates of most types of events were found primarily in young adulthood. These results are discussed in term of their implications for understanding the etiological role of stressful life events in depression.

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