Is life more difficult on mars or venus? A meta-analytic review of sex differences in major and minor life events
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
We conducted a meta-analysis of studies examining sex differences in reported levels of stress, considering the impact of: (a) the age and representativeness of sample participants, (b) whether life events were weighted or unweighted by participants for impact or severity, (c) the major versus minor nature of the stress, and (d) the life domain of the stressor. Overall, the meta-analysis of 119 studies including 83,559 participants found that females were exposed to more stress than were males (d=.123, r=.061). However, there was considerable heterogeneity among studies, with greater effect sizes associated with: (a) life events weighted by participants for impact, (b) adolescents compared to both younger and older samples, (c) major life stressors compared to minor stressors, and (d) interpersonal relationship stressors compared to work stressors. In none of the subgroup analyses did males experience considerably more stress than females. Evaluation of a subsample of 39 studies that examined gender differences in psychological symptoms revealed that females reported more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic problems (d=.282, r=.139) and that the sex difference in reports of psychological symptoms accounted for approximately 4% of the variance in the sex differences in reports of stress. Possible explanations for the observed patterning of effects are discussed, as are recommendations for further research.
Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by NHLBI Grants HL25767 and HL38712 awarded to the second author.
Goldberg H:The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege (2nd Ed.). New York: Signet, 1987.
Sorenson G, Pirie P, Folsom A, et al: Sex differences in the relationship between work and health: The Minnesota Heart Survey.Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 1985,26:379–394.CrossRef
Bernard J:Women and the Public Interest. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971.
Gove WH, Tudor J: Adult sex roles and mental illness.American Journal of Sociology. 1973,78:812–835.CrossRef
Netterstrom B, Kristensen TS, Damsgaard MT, Olsen O, Sjol A: Job strain and cardiovascular risk factors: A cross-sectional study of employed Danish men and women.British Journal of Industrial Medicine. 1991,48:684–689.PubMed
Barrett RC, Baruch GK: Women's involvement in multiple roles and psychological distress.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1985,49:135–145.CrossRef
Mortimer JT, Sorenson G: Men, women, work, and the family. In Borman K, Quarm D, Giodeonse S (eds),Women in the Workplace: Effects on Families. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishers, 1984, 139–168.
Aneshensel CS, Pearlin LI: Structural contexts of sex differences in stress. In Barnet RC, Bierner L, Baruch GK (eds),Gender and Stress. New York: Free Press, 1987, 75–95.
Wethington E, McLeod JD, Kessler RC: The importance of life events for explaining sex differences in psychological distress. In Barnett RC, Bierner L, Baruch GK (eds),Gender and Stress. New York: Free Press, 1987, 144–156.
Gore S, Aseltine RH, Colten ME: Gender, social-relational involvement, and depression.Journal of Research on Adolescence. 1993,3:101–125.CrossRef
Sandler IN, Wolchik SA, Braver SL: Stressors of children's postdivorce environments. In Wolchik SA, Karoly P (eds),Children of Divorce New York: Gardner Press, 1988, 111–143.
Lazarus RS, Folkman S:Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer Publishing, 1984.
Johnson BT: Software for the meta-analytic review of research literatures. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1989.
Hedges LV, Olkin I:Statistical Methods for Meta-Analysis. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1985.
Matt GE, Cook TD: Threats to the validity of research synthesis. In Cooper H, Hedges LV (eds),Handbook of Research Synthesis. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1994, 503–520.
Rosenthal R:Meta-Analytic Procedures for Social Research Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1984.
Mirowsky J, Ross CE: Sex differences in distress: Real or artifact?American Sociological Review. 1995,60:449–468.CrossRef
Spence JT, Helmreich RL:Masculinity and Femininity. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1978.
Porter LS, Stone AA: Are there really gender differences in coping? A reconsideration of previous data and results from a daily study.Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 1995,14:184–202.
Kessler RC, McLeod JD: Sex differences in vulnerability to undesirable life events.American Sociological Review. 1984,49:620–631.CrossRef
Leadbeater BJ, Blatt SJ, Quinlan DM: Gender-linked vulnerabilities to depressive symptoms, stress, and problem behaviors in adolescents.Journal of Research on Adolescence. 1995,5:1–29.CrossRef
Bush DM, Simmons RG: Gender and coping with the entry into early adolescence. In Barnett RC, Bierner L, Baruch GK (eds),Gender and Stress New York: Free Press, 1987, 185–217.
Best R:We've All Got Scars. Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1983.
McDonald LM, Korabik K: Sources of stress and ways of coping among male and female managers.Journal of Social Behavior and Personality. 1991,6:185–198.
Murphy SA, Beaton RD, Cain K, Pike K: Gender differences in fire fighter job stressors and symptoms of stress.Women and Health. 1994,22:55–69.
Scott NA: Chief student affairs officers: Stressors and strategies.Journal of College Student Development. 1992,33:108–116.
Rosenthal R: The “file drawer problem” and tolerance for null results.Psychological Bulletin, 1979,86:638–641.CrossRef
Rosenthal R, Rubin D: A simple, general purpose display of magnitude of experimental effect.Journal of Educational Psychology. 1982,74:166–199.CrossRef
Steering Committee of the Physician's Health Study Research Group: Preliminary report: Findings from the aspirin component of the ongoing physician's health study.New England Journal of Medicine. 1988,318:262–264.
Brown GW, Harris TO:Life Events and Illness. New York: Guilford, 1989.
Cohen L:Research on Stressful Life Events: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. New York: Sage, 1988.
Zimmerman M: Methodological issues in the assessment of life events: A review of issues and research.Clinical Psychology Review. 1983,3:339–370.CrossRef
Zautra AJ, Affleck G, Tennen H: Assessing life events among older adults. In Lawton MP, Teresi JA (eds),Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics. New York: Springer, 1994, 324–352.
Rosenthal R: Writing meta-analytic reviews.Psychological Bulletin. 1995,118:183–191.CrossRef
Cooper H, Hedges LV:The Handbook of Research Synthesis. New York: Russell Sage, 1994.
Stone A, Neale JM, Shiffman S: Daily assessment of stress and coping and their association with mood.Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 1993,15:8–16.
- Is life more difficult on mars or venus? A meta-analytic review of sex differences in major and minor life events
Annals of Behavioral Medicine
Volume 21, Issue 1 , pp 83-97
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Additional Links
- Industry Sectors