Gender differences in depression and anxiety across the adult lifespan: the role of psychosocial mediators

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2008 Dec;43(12):983-98. doi: 10.1007/s00127-008-0388-z. Epub 2008 Jun 23.


Background: There is robust epidemiological and clinical evidence that a greater number of women than men experience depression and anxiety. This study investigated a number of socio-demographic, health and lifestyle, psychological and social factors as possible mediators for the gender difference in depression and anxiety in three cohorts (20-24, 40-44, 60-64).

Methods: Responses were from a representative, community based survey (n = 7,485) conducted in Canberra and Queanbeyan (NSW), in Australia. Depression and anxiety were measured using the self-report Goldberg Anxiety and Depression Scales. The analyses initially identified gender differences in the potential mediators, followed by univariate and multivariate mediation models.

Results: The results indicated several shared mediators for depression and anxiety across the three age groups including: childhood adversity, mastery, behavioural inhibition, ruminative style, neuroticism, physical health, physical activity, and perceived interpersonal and employment problems. There was a decrease in the number of social mediators as age increased. The multivariate models accounted for gender differences in both conditions for all age groups, except for anxiety in the 20-24 years old. This suggests further important unmeasured mediators for this age group.

Conclusions: These findings add to the literature surrounding gender differences in depression and anxiety, and provide a basis for future research exploring variation in these gender disparities over the adult lifespan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry)
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Self-Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Young Adult