It is a well-documented fact that women are more prone to depressive disorders than men, but this latest study shows that, as a group, a large random sample of women over the age of 55 actually displayed lower levels of depression than men. The change in the ratio between the sexes is said to have been seen because of a reduction in the female prevalence of depression, rather than an increase in male prevalence.
The author of the report, Professor Paul Bebbington, of University College Medical School in London, used data from the National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity to test the hypothesis that the excess of depression in women disappears in the post-menopausal years and that obvious social explanations for this are inadequate. Lay interviewers carried out psychiatric assessments of a random sample of 9,762 people.
The study was unsuccessful in explaining the findings in terms of social variables, such as marital sex, child-care or employment status, and therefore cannot rule out the suggestion that the dip in rates of depression after the menopause is directly related to the passage through the menopause.
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