Sex differences in depressive symptom expression and help-seeking among college students
- Cite this article as:
- Padesky, C.A. & Hammen, C.L. Sex Roles (1981) 7: 309. doi:10.1007/BF00287545
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Considerable controversy has emerged around the issue of sex differences in depression. A recent study of a large sample of young, unmarried college student found no sex differences in degree of depression as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory, and yet significant sex differences emerged in the patterns of symptoms expressed by the most depressed subsample. It was speculated that sex differences in symptom expression may lead to sex differences in self-presentation, help-seeking, and evaluation by professionals — eventuating in predominance of women treated for depression. Two studies were conducted to clarify these issues. The first study attempted to replicate the findings on a similar large sample of college students using discriminant function analysis of male and female responses to the D30 subscale of the Depression scale of the MMPI. The results confirmed the previous finding that depressed men in a college population are more likely to express social withdrawal, cognitive and motivational deficits, and somatic concerns. Depressed women are characterized on the D30 by a lack of confidence, a lack of concern for what happens to them, and being hurt by criticism. The second study examined possible sex differences in the self-labeling of depression, attitudes toward seeking help for depression, and actual help-seeking behaviors. Men and women did not differ in willingness to report depression. However, there were clear sex differences in both help-seeking attitudes and reported behaviors, with men more reluctant to seek help.