Original Paper

Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 47, Issue 11, pp 1855-1863

Gender differences in psychosocial functioning of adolescents with symptoms of anxiety and depression: longitudinal findings from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study

  • Ruth Derdikman-EironAffiliated withDepartment of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, The Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (RBUP), Norwegian University of Science and TechnologySt. Olav’s University Hospital Email author 
  • , Marit S. IndredavikAffiliated withDepartment of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, The Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (RBUP), Norwegian University of Science and TechnologySt. Olav’s University Hospital
  • , Inger Johanne BakkenAffiliated withDepartment of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, The Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (RBUP), Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • , Grete H. BratbergAffiliated withDepartment of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, HUNT Research Centre, Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyDepartment of Research and Development, Levanger Hospital, Health Trust Nord-Trøndelag
  • , Odin HjemdalAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • , Matthew ColtonAffiliated withDepartment of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, The Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (RBUP), Norwegian University of Science and TechnologySt. Olav’s University Hospital

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Abstract

Purpose

To explore longitudinally gender differences in the associations between psychosocial functioning, subjective well-being and self-esteem among adolescents with and without symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Methods

Data were obtained from a major population-based Norwegian study, the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study, in which 1,092 boys and 1,262 girls (86% of all invited) completed an extensive self-report questionnaire at baseline (mean age 14.4 years) and at follow-up (mean age 18.4 years).

Results

Gender was a moderator variable in the associations between symptoms of anxiety and depression and impairment, meaning that boys’ functioning was impaired to a larger extent than girls’ functioning. A statistically significant interaction effect between gender and symptoms of anxiety and depression was found at follow-up in terms of subjective well-being (p < 0.05), self-esteem (p < 0.05), academic problems (p < 0.01), behaviour problems (p < 0.01) and frequency of meeting friends (p < 0.001). Onset of symptoms between baseline and follow-up was associated with less frequent meetings with friends among boys, but not among girls. After remission of symptoms, boys still had more behaviour and academic problems, less frequently met friends and reported lower subjective well-being and self-esteem than boys who had no symptoms at both time points. No similar differences were found among the girls.

Conclusion

Previous and ongoing symptoms of anxiety and depression had more negative consequences for boys than for girls. These findings may contribute to improved assessment and intervention methods tailored differently for each gender.

Keywords

Mental health Adolescence Gender differences Anxiety and depression Young HUNT study