Changes in the depression gender gap from 1992 to 2014: Cohort effects and mediation by gendered social position


Platt, J. M., Bates, L. M., Jager, J., McLaughlin, K. A., & Keyes, K. M. (2020). Changes in the depression gender gap from 1992 to 2014: Cohort effects and mediation by gendered social position. Social Science & Medicine , 258, 113088.


The depression gap (i.e., higher rates of depression among women than men) represents an important mental health disparity in the US. Differences in gendered social position (i.e., the roles, responsibilities, and opportunities available to women and men), which have been changing since the mid-20th Century may contribute to this gender gap. The present study examined the evidence for a changing depression gap across birth cohorts and tested the extent to which any changes over time were mediated by changes in relative social position between women and men. Data were from the National Longitudinal Surveys. The depression gap was defined as differences in mean CESD scores for women vs. men. The analytic sample included 13,666 respondents interviewed from 1992 to 2014. Hierarchical mixed models estimated the magnitude of the gender depression gap over time, its association with 10-year birth cohort (range: 1957–1994), and whether any variation was mediated by ratios among women relative to men of obtaining a college degree, being employed full-time, and the average number of hours spent doing housework per week, three indicators of gendered social position. There was a linear decrease in the depression gap by 0.18 points across birth cohort (95% CI = −0.26, −0.10). The results of the mediation analysis estimated that an increasing ratio of college degree attainment mediated 39% of the gender depression gap across cohorts (95% CI = 0.18, 0.78). There was no evidence of mediation due to changing employment or housework ratios. These findings partially support the hypothesis that the depression gap is changing over time and is meaningfully related to the social environment. Understanding the social causes of the depression gap can illuminate the fundamental processes through which depression disparities may be perpetuated or attenuated over time and may aid in the identification of strategies to reduce them.

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Last updated on 06/24/2020