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Negative life events, social support and gender difference in depression

A multinational community survey with data from the ODIN study

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Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript



To explore if differences in negative life events, vulnerability and social support may explain the gender difference in depression.


Cross-sectional, multinational, community survey from five European countries (n = 8,787). Depression is measured by Beck Depression Inventory, whereas negative life events and social support are measured by various questionnaires.


Women report slightly more negative life events than men do, mainly related to the social network, but more social support in general and in connection with reported life events. This trend is the same in all participating countries except Spain, where there is no gender difference in the reported support. In general, women are not more vulnerable to negative life events than men are. However, women with no social support, who are exposed to life events, are more vulnerable than men without support.


The higher rate of depression in women is not explained by gender differences in negative life events, social support or vulnerability.

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Authors and Affiliations



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Odd Steffen Dalgard.

Additional information

The ODIN Group is composed of academic colleagues, research and administrative staff who have worked on this part of the ODIN Project. They are: Gail Bareback, Trygve Børve, Maura Costello, Nicholas Fenlon, Mette Finne, Fiona Ford, Claire Hayes, Ann Horgan, Tarja Koffert, Nicola Jones, Marja Salomaa, Catherine McDonough, Erin Michalak, Christine Murphy, Anne Nævra, Teija Nummelin , Britta Sohlman, Clare Wilkinson

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Oslo social support scale

Part 1

How many people are so close to you that you can count on them if you have serious problems?

  • None              1

  • 1 or 2             2

  • 3–5                3

  • 6 or more      4

How much concern do people show in what you are doing?

  • A lot of concern and interest   5

  • Some concern and interest       4

  • Uncertain                                  3

  • Little concern and interest       2

  • No concern and interest           1

How easy can you get practical help from neighbours if you should need it?

  • Very easy           5

  • Easy                   4

  • Possible             3

  • Difficult            2

  • Very difficult    1

Total score is calculated by summarizing the Z-scores for each item

Part 2

If you experienced one or more of these life events during the last 6 months, please answer the following questions:

Did you get emotional support from anybody in relation to the event? If you had more than one event, please think of the most serious one

Please tick one:

  • Yes, a lot of support

  • Yes, some support

  • No support

From whom did you get emotional support? You may tick more than one:

  • Spouse/partner

  • Parent

  • Brother/sister

  • Children

  • Friend

  • Neighbour

  • Other relative

  • Other

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Dalgard, O.S., Dowrick, C., Lehtinen, V. et al. Negative life events, social support and gender difference in depression. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 41, 444–451 (2006).

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