A Research Proposal on a Study of the Differences in Females and Males in Depression

Running Head: A Research Proposal on a Study of the Differences in Females and Males in Depression

1.0 Introduction

Psychologists have indentified distinct variations between the manifestations of male and female depressions. Male depression is not as common as female depression though still depression affects a considerable proportion of any given population. For example it is estimated that in every 1 year period, an estimated 9.5% of the American population suffer from a depressive illness, (Weich, S., Sloggett, A. & Lewis, 1998). The negative impacts of depression is overwhelming; reduced economic productivity, interference with an individual’s normal functioning, untold pain and suffering to victims and their families and friends, destruction of family life, negative effects on individual’s thinking and actions and in extreme cases self harm and harm of others; makes gender based differentiation of depression imperative, (Cadoret, Winokur, Langbehn, et al 1996).

Research studies show that several differences exist in terms of causes and effects between male and female depression. The differences are as a result of varying factors. For example societal expectations form an explanation since males and females are expected to deal with depression differently. Varying gender roles in society which expects women to freely open up and discuss their feelings as opposed to societal induced male roles which expects men to be strong emotionally. In terms of causes there also exist a variety of explanations. For example male depression is associated with self criticism and repression of emotions while female depression is based on low self esteem and dependency.

Resultantly, depressive expressions will also vary as males will exhibit depression in manners different from that of females. For example as a result of repressed depressive feelings, depressed males tend to engage more in suicide and violence when compared to females. To gain a proper understanding of the difference, this study will identify the differences in male and female depressions in terms of causes, developmental course, and effects thereby offering recommendations on how best the two conditions can be handled gender specifically.

1.1 Problem Statement

Males and Females with depressed moods report similar levels of subjective, social and occupational impairment even though there is a tendency of females to report more depressive symptoms than males. Similarity in moods and influence, complexity of establishing the symptoms and wide variation makes it difficult to concretely identify the differences in male and female depression.

2.0 The Research Objective/Questions/ Hypotheses

2.1 Hypothesis

The existence of gender differences with respect to varying forms of depressions is a reality. The prevalence, incidence and morbidity risk of depressive disorders are higher in females than males beginning at adolescent and persisting through life. Depression therefore differs considerably on its cause, effects, clinical manifestation, age and course of development within the two different genders.

2.2 Research Objectives

The objectives of this study are:

  • To investigate the differences between male and female depression in terms of prevalence, incidence and morbidity risk
  • To analyze how different depression types affects different genders
  • To review evident observable differences between male and female depressions
  • To explore gender differences in depressive symptomatology.
  • To describe variations in duration of depression period between males and females
  • To offer explanatory factors that account for existing gender differences in depression

2.3 Research Questions

The purpose of this study will be to determine the differences between males and females in depression. It therefore seeks to examine the relationship between causative agents, developmental course and resulting effects between the two genders. To guide the stated purpose of the study, the following research questions will be examined:

  1. To what extent are depressive disorders prevalent in terms of incidence and morbidity risks in males and females?
  2. What relationship exits between depression types and gender predisposition?
  3. How does reporting and report patterns affect perceived gender differences in depression?
  4. What gender differences exist in the course of depression?
  5. What are the existing factors that account for existing differences between male and female depression?

3.0 Study Rationale

Depression prevalence is at a very high rate in globally especially with respect to the female population as reported by (Cadoret, Winokur, Langbehn, et al 1996, Weich, Sloggett, & Lewis, 1998, Weissman, & Klerman, 1977) Being a casual factor for a number of other major related illnesses and conditions in human beings, depression is a significant public health problem. Experts agree of the existence of differences between male and female depressions. Unless better research is undertaken and radical changes applied to depression management procedure, majority of the population does and will continue to face tremendous health and economic burden in the very near future.

Are there differences in female and male depressions? Although considerable research offer an affirmative answer to this question, more scientific evidence is still needed to uncover and support possible pathogenic and social associations between depression and its effects of human population based on their genders, (Marco, & Greg, 2002) . The study will serve as a significant contribution to answer the question. One of the main issues in the rationale for this study will be to study given historical evidences of how depression affects the general population based on existing literature. By this Depression and it’s economic, health, social and environmental factors will be better understood.

Depressive related illnesses affecting different genders are left interpreted, diagnosed and treated under generally similar clinical procedures irrespective of the gender of the sufferer. The study can further help to support the consistency of research findings that female and male depressions differ considerably and should be handled differently in terms of clinical management procedures. The study will further provide an understanding of the patterns of distribution of destructive depressive illnesses.

4.0 The conceptual /Theoretical framework

4.1 Gender Based Differences in Depression Based on Clinical Observation

Gender difference in depressive symptomatology has received wide ranging scholastic attention, (Erica, Longhurst, & Mazure, 1999, Marco, & Greg, 2002, Weissman, M. M. & Klerman, 1977). Existing literature identify different categorizations or forms of depressions asserting that gender differences in depressive disorders are a reality. Dysthymic disorder (Dysthymia), psychotic depression, postpartum depressions, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and atypical depression are all prevalent in females when compared to males (Marco, & Greg, 2002). Bipolar disorder on the other hand is more or less of equal prevalence between the two sexes even though women tend to suffer more. In terms of incidence based on clinical observation; females tend to suffer more on the above named depression types.

Scientific researches have identified differences between male and female depressions in terms of causes, expressions and effects and the relative interrelatedness between these aspects. Male depression is as a result of repressed emotions, perceived failure, criticism from others and self and is also biologically induced in certain cases. Although researchers ascertain that depression is more common in females in comparison to males based on clinical evidences, (Erica, Longhurst, & Mazure, 1999) argue that this difference may only be attributable to male tendency to avoid clinical therapy. Due to societal expectation of male roles, men tend to stay away from therapy as it may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.  Those who agree to commit to therapy tend to still repress their emotions and through. Higher prevalence of clinical and subclinical depression types is a reflection of socially designed order.

Clinical manifestations of depressions differ by gender. Females often report disturbances of appetite, and sleep, fatigue, somatic anxiety and will tend to blame themselves for depression related implications, while males will blame others for their depressive feelings. Females tend to feel sad, apathetic and worthless hence they will tend to blame themselves and generally internally direct any anger. Males on the other end will tend to feel angry and irritable, thereby exhibiting increased levels of alcohol or drug abuse and violence. Furthermore females tend to feel anxious and scared while males feel suspicious and guarded, Cadoret, R. J., Winokur, G., Langbehn, D., et al (1996).

The relative developmental pathways also differ considerably based on gender. Females will tend to experience already existing anxiety disorders hence will tend to live in reclusion, avoiding conflicts at all costs while men will tend to create conflict, showing conflict at every possible opportunity. This is an indication of manifestation of externalizing disorders. Women will be overly nice to their associates while men will be covertly hostile. All the descriptions are aspects of depression spectrum there also exists aged based variations between the genders. The onset of major depression are detected as from mid puberty to early adulthood in females while male depression prevalence onset in early adolescence. The course of depression is a major factor in understanding the existing gender differences in depression. Furthermore (Marco, & Greg, 2002, Cadoret, Winokur, Langbehn, et al 1996) all assert that, course of depression rather than its causes might be a better explanation to the high prevalence of depression rates among females. There are variations in the studies that show depression durations, though most report that there is a higher rate of both first onsets, recurrent and chronic depression in females.

Further research identifies varied categorizations of female and male depressions. While depressed females tend to be chronic procrastinators as opposed to males who tend to be time conscious. Insomnia tends to be predominant in males while depressed as opposed to females who tend to sleep too much. Females will tend to avoid praise, feeling uncomfortable whenever praised, while men would tend to feel frustrated when not praised. Furthermore while women will tend to talk about their situations expressing their weaknesses and doubts, men will hide these feelings being critically fearful of talking about them. Males will therefore strongly fear failure as opposed to women who tend to fear success. There are also variations in relative feelings between the two genders. A man interprets their feelings as fatigue, frustration, irritability leading to a general loss of concentration. Conversely, females tend to have feelings of sadness and guilt when depressed, (Frank, Karp, Rush, 1993).

A number of studies indicate that depressed women crave for safety needing to feel safe by subjecting to other individual’s will while men will tend to dominate in order to feel safe when depressed. The self blame in depressed women tend to compound to feelings that things could be better suppose they behaved differently. In a conflicting situation with a spouse, co-worker, parent or a friend, women will end to take the blame. Men on the other hand believe that only others can solve the problem hence it is others and not them that should behave differently, (Frank, Karp, Rush, 1993). A growing body of psychological literature has challenged the generally believed aspects of self respect and nervous breakdown. While contemporary research have shown that females tend to have trouble with respecting themselves, (Frank, Karp , Rush, 1993) notes that this is questionable as certain depressed women demand respect from others. It is however generally believed that depressed males will tend to demand respect.

4.2 Explanatory Factors

Scholars have described varying risk factors that tend to explain gender differences in depression. The role of the familial environment and early childhood experiences is a possible cause of the difference between males and females in depression. Familial factors inherently modulate individual’s personal attributes and relative response to life events hence will affect how individuals respond to depressive situations. Furthermore 72% of adults in depressive clinics report adverse early childhood experiences. Since females are at a greater risk of experiencing depression at earlier ages, prior depressive experiences or anxiety disorders are explanations for depressions later in life. Existing studies have shown that those who undergo depressive situations during childhood and adolescence tend to experience more episodes and longer periods of depression in adult life. Social roles and cultural norms are also considerable explanations for the existing differences between male and female depression. Studies that base their population sample on socio-demographic variables across different countries and cultural groups all indicate that cultural influences affect female predisposition to depression, (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2002).

Life events are also an explanation to this difference. Since there is a direct correlation between a stressful life and depression, different events is interpreted differently by both females and males hence expectation and internal and external reaction to these events account for the considerable difference in depression. Available social support is also an explanatory factor towards the difference. Poor social support will lead to the onset of or relapse to depression though social support will reduce depression in females more than males. Since males and females have varying genetic predisposition, this has been stated as a cause of the depressive differences.

Findings show depression is similar for males and females who share certain genetic risk factors hence this may directly account for the difference when integrated with social support and other factors. Hormonal influence is also offers account for depression differences between the two genders, (Marco, & Greg, 2002). Since men and women have varying hormonal activities, for example women have high hormonal imbalance. Varying hormonal activity will lead to variations in depression predisposition. The existing neurotransmitter system is also a traditional explanation for the difference. (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2002) notes that the rates of 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol levels in blood change with age, and gender though it changes more with gender. This specific neurotransmitter has been shown to account for relatively higher levels of female depression.

5.0 Research Methodology

In studying the complex phenomenon of depression relatedness to gender, a theoretical model involving a critical review of existing literature, is to be used. The theoretical framework for this study will seek to illustrate four variables 1) Determinants of gender differences in depressive disorders 2) How different depression types affects males or females differently 3) Explanatory factors of the existing differences between male and female depression and 4) gender related outcomes of research findings.

Notably, determining gender differences in depressive disorders is a rather complex aspect as there is lacking in clear markers or differentiating agents on depressive disorder symptom distribution across the genders.  Differences between depressions in men and women make it appropriate to identify varying approaches on how to handle depression between the two genders. Imperatively, there are reported differences in clinical manifestation of depression by gender. Gender-dimorphic items will be a critical part of the scale.

Based on critical theoretical review of existing research on the subject items such as clinical manifestations, frequency of report, observable depression characteristics will be identified and consequently; a certain scale will be developed and validated as part of the study using standard guidelines for scale development and pyschchomatric property.

6.0 Conclusion

The study will assist in better understanding of the differences in depression which scholars accept to be a reality that must be faced. The study will conclusively describe these differences identifying how depression types, severity and emotional responses are gender specific. It will also attempt to offer full account for gender differences in levels of depressions by analyzing different underlying facets on the topic. Familial environment and adverse childhood experiences, prior depression and anxiety disorders, existing social roles and cultural norms, life events, vulnerability and coping style, existing social support, genetic factors, hormonal factors, and varying neurotransmitter systems forms a conclusive list of existing explanations of causative factors that would be critically analyzed in the study.

References

Cadoret, R. J., Winokur, G., Langbehn, D., et al (1996) Depression spectrum disease, I: The

Role of Gene-Environment Interaction. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 892-899 Available Online: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/153/7/892?ijkey=8e5fa3301ad5e3f6cfc5ee3f8e35e7d31e6bacd1&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

Erica L. W., Longhurst, G. J. and Mazure, C.M (1999) Childhood Sexual Abuse as a Risk

Factor for Depression in Women: Psychosocial and Neurobiological Correlates American Psychiatric Association  156:816-828, June 1999

Frank E, Karp J.F., Rush A.J. (1993). Efficacy of treatments for major

Depression. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 1993; 29:457-75. Available Online: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/156/6/816?ijkey=54d03a5706e549737bec8f26577ac2dc6bdf152c&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

Marco, P. & Greg, W. (2002) Gender differences in Depression. The British Journal of

Psychiatry (2000) 177: 486-492

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2002) Gender Differences in Depression Current Directions in

Psychological Science Volume 10 Issue 5, Pages 173-176.

Silverstein, B. (1999) Gender differences in the prevalence of clinical depression: the role

Played by depression associated with somatic symptoms. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 480-482. Available Online: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/156/3/480?ijkey=c23562ce641fc491f85b4c9bb0330390c742285d&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

Weissman, M. M. & Klerman, G. L. (1977) Sex differences and the epidemiology of

Depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 34, 98-111

Weich, S., Sloggett, A. & Lewis, G. (1998) Social roles and gender difference in the

Prevalence of common mental disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry, 173, 489-493 Available Online:

http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/173/6/489?ijkey=b388994ed9971f7d424308a0c55632310b1e4a9b&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

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