, Volume 30, Issue 5-6, pp 331-346

Gender differences in responses to depressed mood in a college sample

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Two studies tested the hypothesis that women are more likely than men to focus on themselves and their mood when in a depressed mood, and that this leads them to experience longer periods of depressed mood. In both studies subjects were predominantly Caucasian college students. In our first study, a laboratory study, females chose to engage in an emotion-related task significantly more often than did males, even when this lead them to focus on an existing sad mood. In the second study, a prospective naturalistic study, females were more likely than males to evince an emotion-focused ruminative style of coping with their moods. A ruminative response style at Time 1 was a significant predictor of depression scores at Time 2, even after initial levels of depressed mood were taken into account. Furthermore, once rumination levels were controlled for, gender was no longer a potent predictor of depression outcome. The implications of these response styles for treatment are discussed.

We thank Brandi Battistoni, Kim Bergquist, Rachel Carr, Lisa Lougee, and especially Ariel Lang for their invaluable help in data collection. We also thank Chuck Olson, Jannay Morrow, and Rose McDermott for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.