Background: Epidemiologic research consistently reports gender differences in the rates and course of major depressive disorder (MDD). The STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) multicenter trial provides a unique opportunity to explore gender differences in outpatients with nonpsychotic MDD.
Methods: This sample included the first 1500 outpatients with MDD who enrolled in STAR*D. Nearly two-thirds of the sample (62.8%) were women. Baseline sociodemographic factors, comorbidities, and illness characteristics were analyzed by gender.
Results: Women (62.8% of the sample) had a younger age at onset of the first major depressive episode. They commonly reported concurrent symptoms consistent with anxiety disorders, somatoform disorder, and bulimia as well as atypical symptoms. Alcohol and drug abuses were more common in men.
Limitations: This report is a subpopulation of the entire STAR*D sample. These exploratory analyses aimed to identify potential gender differences for further hypothesis testing.
Conclusions: The gender-specific rate of MDD in this study population is proportional to rates found in community samples with a 1.7:1 prevalence of MDD in women vs. men which argues against increased treatment seeking in women.