Gender Differences in Self-Reports of Depression: The Response Bias Hypothesis Revisited

Abstract

This study was designed to revisit the response bias hypothesis, which posits that gender differences in depression prevalence rates may reflect a tendency for men to underreport depressive symptoms. In this study, we examined aspects of gender role socialization (gender-related traits, socially desirable responding, beliefs about mental health and depression) that may contribute to a response bias in self-reports of depression. In addition, we investigated the impact of two contextual variables (i.e., cause of depression and level of intrusiveness of experimental follow-up) on self-reports of depressive symptoms. Results indicated that men, but not women, reported fewer depressive symptoms when consent forms indicated that a more involved follow-up might occur. Further, results indicated differential responding by men and women on measures of gender-related traits, mental health beliefs, and beliefs about depression and predictors of depressed mood. Together, our results support the assertion that, in specific contexts, a response bias explanation warrants further consideration in investigations of gender differences in rates of self-reported depression.

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Correspondence to Sandra T. Sigmon.

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Sigmon, S.T., Pells, J.J., Boulard, N.E. et al. Gender Differences in Self-Reports of Depression: The Response Bias Hypothesis Revisited. Sex Roles 53, 401–411 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-005-6762-3

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Keywords

  • response bias
  • depression self-report
  • gender differences in depression
  • artifact hypothesis