Patient gender differences in the diagnosis of depression in primary care

J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2001 Sep;10(7):689-98. doi: 10.1089/15246090152563579.


Our purpose was to explore why women are more likely than men to be diagnosed as depressed by their primary care physician. Women were found to have more depressive symptoms as self-reported on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Women having high BDI scores (reflecting significant depression) were more likely than men with high BDI scores to be diagnosed by their primary care physician (p = 0.0295). Female patients made significantly more visits to the clinic than men. For both sexes, patients with greater numbers of primary care clinic visits were more likely to be diagnosed as depressed. Logistic regression revealed that gender has both a direct and indirect (through increased use) effect on the likelihood of being diagnosed as depressed. Patient BDI score, clinic use, educational level, and marital status were all significantly related to the diagnosis of depression. Controlling all other independent variables, women were 72% more likely than men to be identified as depressed, but this effect did not achieve statistical significance (p = 0.0981). In gender-specific analyses, BDI and clinic use were again significantly related to the diagnosis of depression for both sexes. However, educational and marital status predicted depression diagnosis only for women. Separated, divorced, or widowed women were almost five times as likely to be diagnosed as depressed as those who were never married, all other factors being equal. Clinic use and BDI scores were found to be important correlates of the diagnosis of depression. There was some evidence of possible gender bias in the diagnosis of depression.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • California / epidemiology
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Prejudice*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Sex Distribution