Gender differences in psychosocial functioning of adolescents with symptoms of anxiety and depression: longitudinal findings from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study
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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.
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).
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.
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.
KeywordsMental health Adolescence Gender differences Anxiety and depression Young HUNT study
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