• coping factors;
  • depression;
  • gender differences;
  • risk factors

Objective: To examine gender differences in depression risk and coping factors in a clinical sample of patients with a diagnosis of DSM-IV major depression.

Method: Patients were assessed for substance use and abuse, family history of psychiatric disorder, interpersonal depressogenic factors and lifetime history of anxiety disorders. Trait anxiety, coping styles when depressed, parental bonding, marital features and personality style were also measured. Patients were reassessed at 12-month follow-up.

Results: There were few gender differences in experience of depression (either in duration, type or severity prior to treatment) in a group with established episodes of major depression but women reported more emotional arousability when depressed. Women reported higher rates of dysfunctional parenting and childhood sexual abuse, and rated their partners as less caring and as more likely to be a depressogenic stressor. Men were more likely to have a generalized anxiety disorder at assessment, to use recreational drugs prior to presentation. Men were rated as having a more rigid personality style and `Cluster A' personality traits both at assessment and follow-up.

Conclusion: There were few gender differences in severity or course of established episodes of major depression. Gender differences were related to levels of arousal, anxiety disorders, and repertoires for dealing with depression, rather than depressive symptoms per se.