Association Between Stressful Life Events and Depression; Intersection of Race and Gender

  • Shervin AssariEmail author
  • Maryam Moghani Lankarani



Although stressful life events (SLEs) and depression are associated, we do not know if the intersection of race and gender modifies the magnitude of this link. Using a nationally representative sample of adults in the USA, we tested if the association between SLE and major depressive episode (MDE) depends on the intersection of race and gender.


Data came from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), 2003, a cross-sectional survey that enrolled 5899 adults including 5008 Blacks (African-Americans or Caribbean Blacks), and 891 Non-Hispanic Whites. Logistic regression was used for data analysis. Stressful life events (past 30 days) was the independent variable, 12-month MDE was the dependent variable, and age, educational level, marital status, employment, and region of country were controls.


In the pooled sample, SLE was associated with MDE above and beyond all covariates, without the SLE × race interaction term being significant. Among men, the SLE × race interaction was significant, suggesting a stronger association between SLE and MDE among White men compared to Black men. Such interaction between SLE × race could not be found among women.


The association between SLE and depression may be stronger for White men than Black men; however, this link does not differ between White and Black women. More research is needed to better understand the mechanism behind race by gender variation in the stress–depression link.


Ethic groups Major depressive episode Stressful life events Race Gender 




The National Survey of American Life (NSAL) is mostly supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, with grant U01-MH57716. Other support came from the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Michigan. For this analysis, public data set was downloaded from Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), Institute for Social Research at University of Michigan.

Author Contributions

SA designed the work, analyzed the data, and drafted the manuscript. MML designed the work and revised the draft.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health (CRECH), School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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