Gender differences in depressive symptoms. An artefact caused by measurement instruments?

J Affect Disord. 2002 Apr;68(2-3):215-20. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(00)00315-3.


Background: According to studies depression and depressive symptoms are more prevalent in females than in males. It is possible, however, that instruments meant to measure depressiveness are gender-biased.

Method: This was studied by comparing two screening instruments (the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Depression Scale (DEPS) within the same population. The study sample consisted of 330 subjects taken from general population in south-western part of Finland.

Results: The mean BDI scores were borderline higher in females than in males, with no gender difference in DEPS scores. The difference between BDI and DEPS scores was significant between genders but not for other variables. Crying and lost interest in sex were the items on which females scored higher.

Conclusions: It has been argued that these items, crying and lost interest in sex, are biologically, psychologically and culturally related to female gender and, therefore, give gender-biased results in measuring depressiveness.

Clinical implications: It is important to realise that some instruments meant for screening depression may include gender-biased items and therefore give too high scores of depressiveness in females.

Limitations: The study is based on self-filled scales and its results cannot, therefore, be directly generalised to clinical depression.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bias
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Factors