Gender differences in depressive symptoms among older adults: a cross-national comparison

The CLESA project
  • Maria Victoria ZunzuneguiEmail author
  • Nadia Minicuci
  • Tzuia Blumstein
  • Marianna Noale
  • Dorly Deeg
  • Marja Jylhä
  • Nancy L. Pedersen
  • for the CLESA Working Group



To assess country-specific gender differences in depressive symptoms and to explore if exposures and vulnerabilities vary by gender among older men and women from four European countries and Israel.


Data on 4,449 subjects between 75 and 84 years old were derived from CLESA (“Cross-national determinants of quality of life and health services for the elderly”. A ratio score of depressive symptoms derived form the CESD and GDS scales was regressed on education, marital status, living arrangements, comorbidity and disability and all interactions of these factors with gender and country.


The prevalence of depressive symptoms is higher in women than in men in every country, except Sweden. Women are more likely to be exposed to socio-structural risks, and have poorer health and more disability than men in most of the countries. However, women are not more vulnerable to these risk factors.


Findings indicate that the female excess in depressive symptoms remains after taking into account the higher prevalence of socio-structural and health-related risk factors and that older women are not more vulnerable than older men to these known risk factors, suggesting the existence of additional pathways linked to gender and/or biological sex.

Key words

gender depressive symptoms aging cross-cultural research 



The CLESA Project is supported by EU QoL2000-00664.

The TamELSA is supported by the Academy of Finland, the Juho Vainio Foundation, the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, and the Medical Research Fund of Tampere University Hospital.

CALAS was supported by the US National Institute on Aging Grants -R01-5885-03 and R01-5885-06.

ILSA was supported by the CNR (National Research Council) and the Italian Department of Health—National Institutes of Health.

LASA is supported by The Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports and the Vrije Universiteit.

Aging in Leganés is supported by the Spanish Health Research Fund (FIS), the Madrid Regional Research Fund and Private Foundations (La Caixa, BBVA).

SATSA is supported by the US National Institute on Aging (AG 04563, 10175) and the Swedish Social Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Victoria Zunzunegui
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nadia Minicuci
    • 2
  • Tzuia Blumstein
    • 3
  • Marianna Noale
    • 2
  • Dorly Deeg
    • 4
  • Marja Jylhä
    • 5
  • Nancy L. Pedersen
    • 6
  • for the CLESA Working Group
  1. 1.Dépt. de médecine sociale et préventiveUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.National Council ResearchInstitute of Neuroscience, Padova Aging sectionPadovaItaly
  3. 3.Gertner Health Institute, Chaim Sheba Medical CenterTel HashomerIsrael
  4. 4.VU University Medical Centre, EMGO-Institute LASAAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.School of Public HealthUniversity of TampereTampereFinland
  6. 6.Dept. of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden

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