No one is immune to clinical depression. The mental illness cuts across lines of gender, age and ethnicity. Understanding how depression affects different groups can be much more revealing than simply asking “Who gets depressed?”
Men, Women and Mental Health
Women have a higher rate of depression than men. Twice as many women as men seek depression treatment. Not only does the risk of depression differ between the sexes; female and male depression symptoms are also different. Bearing in mind that no two people experience exactly the same depression symptoms, some symptoms are more common in women than men, and vice versa.
Female depression typically causes such symptoms as:
- Excessive and pervasive feelings of guilt
- Feelings of sadness
- Feelings of worthlessness.
In contrast, male depression symptoms often include:
- Irritability or anger
- Loss of interest in activities enjoyed in the past
- Sleep disturbances.
Depression in children is almost a taboo subject. No one seems to want to admit that a child can experience clinical depression symptom, and people tend to dismiss childhood depression as “normal” youthful moodiness, perpetuating the belief that children are naturally moody and irritable at certain ages.
Childhood depression affects 1 in 33 children. Depression symptoms in children differ somewhat from adult depression. Children suffering through depressive episodes may appear withdrawn, sulky or moody. Worsening school grades is a common sign of childhood depression, and children suffering from depression are prone to get into more trouble both in and out of school.
The sulky, withdrawn and sullen teenager is a universal archetype, and often seen as normal. The popular image of the sullen teen masks the fact that one in eight teenagers suffers from adolescent depression.
Teenage depression is linked to a higher risk of suicide and often accompanies other mental health issues such as anxiety and conduct disorders. Teen substance abuse and eating disorders are often found in conjunction with adolescent depression.
Seniors and Depression
Depression rates are high amongst American seniors. According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance six million seniors experience “late life depression,” although only ten percent ever receive treatment.
Late life depression is not a natural result of aging. Seniors are more likely to experience certain risk factors for depression than the general population. Loneliness, the death of a spouse, and serious health problems often afflict seniors, and all can result in depression.
Seniors may also be caregivers for spouses with health conditions. Caregivers for elderly relatives are at high risk for depression no matter what the caregiver’s age. A survey by the Family Caregiver Alliance in 1996 determined 58 percent of all caregivers exhibit symptoms of clinical depression. As the U.S. population continues to age late life depression—and depression rates in adult caregivers—can be expected to rise as well.
Successful Depression Treatment
While symptoms of depression change depending on age and gender, research shows depression treatment helps childhood depression, teenage depression, late life depression and both women’s depressive episodes and male depression. Psychotherapy, antidepressants, support groups or a combination of treatments can greatly improve depression symptoms.