AARP Eye Center
Ask most mental health professionals about the gender mix of their patients with depression and they're likely to report that most are women — who are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with the condition, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But ask experts why there's such a disparity between genders, and you'll end up with a complex web of potential reasons, including women's hormonal differences and the fact that they're generally more willing to seek help. The good news is that once depression is diagnosed, it can be treated.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
Here's what to know about women and depression — and how to get help.
Depression can occur at any age, and for a variety of reasons (a family history of the disorder can make you more prone). But women are particularly vulnerable during times of hormonal fluctuations — typically between the beginning of puberty and menopause.
Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone affect serotonin, a feel-good chemical messenger that encourages feelings of well-being. When hormone levels drop, serotonin levels decrease, sometimes bringing on a maddening shift in mood. That makes the reproductive years a prime time for depression.
So is the transition into menopause, known as perimenopause. Adding to melancholy mood: hot flashes and night sweats, which can lead to a lack of sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not getting enough shut-eye plays a role in mood and may even increase your risk of dementia.