Gender Differences in Depression and Aggression

male aggression female depression

While depression and aggression affect both males and females, gender differences in each of these conditions have frequently been noted in the literature. As it relates to depression in particular, Piccinelli & Wilkinson (2000) mentioned that there is a female preponderance in the prevalence, incidence and morbidity risk of this disorder.

The rates of depression among boys and girls are comparable in childhood but across various cultures a stable gender difference emerges in early adolescence with females experiencing a higher rate of depression than males. In fact, females are believed to have a two to three times increased risk of depression than males (Lowe & Gibson, 2005). An almost constant ratio of 1 : 2 (M : F) has been documented in the literature (Weissman, Bland, & Canino, 1996, cited in Hildebrandt, Stage & Kragh-Soerensen, 2003; Blazer, Kessler, McGonagle, & Swartz, 1994, cited in Hildebrandt et al., 2003).

[showmyads]Despite the well documented gender difference in depression, Hildebrandt et al. (2003), noted that the higher prevalence of female depression has been found more frequently in studies with non-clinical rather than clinical samples. Furthermore, researchers have noted that the gender difference in depression is limited, and in some cases non-existent in developing countries, traditional societies, and socially homogenous samples (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990, cited in Ramirez, Maty, & McBride, 2003; Nolen-Hoeksema & Rusting, 2003; Piccinelli & Gomez-Homen, 1997, cited in Piccinelli & Wilkinson, 2000).

These findings support those of Masten et al. (2003) who examined gender differences in depression among adolescents in Mexico, a developing country. They studied two groups of adolescents from distinct geographical regions in the country but in neither of these two groups did they find a significant gender difference in depression.  Kelly, Kelly, Brown, & Kelly (1999) also studied gender differences in depression among African-American and White college students. They found significant differences in depression scores between White males and females but no such gender difference among African-Americans.

Gender differences in aggression are also frequently noted in psychological literature. According to Conner and Barkley (2004), males have been found to be more aggressive than females across various types of cultures, scientific studies, and categories of aggression. A meta-analytical study of 63 studies examining gender differences in adult aggression confirmed these findings although the overall difference between males and females was small (Eagley & Steffen, 1986, cited in Conner & Barkley, 2004).

Despite the prevalence of early studies suggesting that males are more aggressive than females, recent researchers have begun to argue against this commonly held notion. Bjorkqvist & Niemela (1992, cited in Bjorkqvist, 1994), for example, pointed out that in most studies investigating this topic, “aggression has been operationaized in typically ‘male’ fashions, usually as physical aggression” (p.177). This creates a gender bias in aggression research since males do tend to be more physically aggressive than females (Conner & Barkley, 2004), who might demonstrate aggression in other ways, for example verbally. This is supported by a recent meta-analytical review of 43 studies on gender differences in overt and relational aggression (Sawalani, 2007). Results revealed that males are more overtly aggressive than females but when relational aggression was taken into consideration, females were often found to be just as aggressive as males (Sawalani, 2007).


Bjorkqvist, K. (1994). Sex differences in physical, verbal, and indirect aggression: A review of recent research. Sex Roles, 30, (3/4), 177-188.

Conner, D. F., & Barkley, R. A. (2004). Aggression and antisocial behavior in children and adolescents: Research and treatment. New York: TheGuilford Press.

Hildebrandt, M. G., Stage, K. B., & Kragh-Soerensen, P. (2003). Gender and depression: A study of severity and symptomology of depressive disorders (ICD-10) in general practice. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 107, 197-202.

Kelly, W. E., Kelly, K. E., Brown, F. C., & Kelly, H. B. (1999). Gender differences in depression among college students: A multi-cultural perspective. College Student Journal, 33 (1), 72-76.

Lowe, G. A., & Gibson, R. C. (2005). Depression in adolescents: New developments. West Indian Medical Journal, 54 (6), 387-391.

Masten, W. G., Caldwell-Colbert, A. T., Williams, V., Jerome, W. W., Mosby, L., Barrios, Y., & Helton, J. (2003). Gender differences in depressive symptoms among Mexican adolescents. Anales de Psicologia, 19 (1), 91-95.

Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Rusting, C. L (2003). Gender differences in wellbeing. In D. Kahneman,

E. Diener, N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. Russel-Sage Foundation.

Piccinelli, M. & Wilkinson, G. (2000). Gender differences in depression. British Journal of Psychiatry, 177, 486-492.

Ramirez, M., Maty, S., & McBride, L. (2003). In L. Cohen, V. Chavez, & S. Chehimi (Eds.).

Prevention is primary: Strategies for community well-being. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Sawalani, G. M. (2007). A meta-analytic review of gender differences in overt and relational aggression in childhood and adolescence. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.

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