Sex differences in depression and anxiety disorders: potential biological determinants

Horm Behav. 2006 Nov;50(4):534-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2006.06.031. Epub 2006 Aug 22.


The phenomenon of higher rates of affective disorders in women illustrates many of the difficulties as well as promises of translating preclinical models to human disorders. Abnormalities in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis and the sympathoadrenomedullary system have been identified in depression and anxiety disorders, and these disorders are clearly precipitated and exacerbated by stress. Despite the striking sex difference in the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders, attempts to identify corresponding sex differences in stress response reactivity in animal models have met with limited success. Processes which may contribute to increased rates of affective disorders in women are greater fluxes in reproductive hormones across the life span, and increased sensitivity to catecholamine augmentation of emotional memory consolidation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology