Estrogen, Stress, and Depression: Cognitive and Biological Interactions

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2019 May 7;15:399-423. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050718-095557. Epub 2019 Feb 20.


This article reviews the interactions of estrogen changes and psychosocial stress in contributing to vulnerability to major depressive disorder (MDD) in women. Estrogen modulates brain networks and processes related to changes in stress response, cognition, and emotional dysregulation that are core characteristics of MDD. Synergistic effects of estrogen on cognitive and emotional function, particularly during psychosocial stress, may underlie the association of ovarian hormone fluctuation and depression in women. We propose a model of estrogen effects on multiple brain systems that interface with stress-related emotional and cognitive processes implicated in MDD and discuss possible mechanisms through which reproductive events and changes in estrogen may contribute to MDD risk in women with other concurrent risk factors.

Keywords: attention; depression; emotion regulation; estrogen; steroids; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism*
  • Emotional Regulation / physiology*
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*


  • Estrogens