Is the US Gender Gap in Depression Changing over Time? A Meta-Regression

Jonathan M. Platt, Lisa Bates, Justin Jager, Katie A. McLaughlin, Katherine M. Keyes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The depression gap refers to higher rates of depression among women than men. Change in the depression gap over time might elucidate social causes of this disparity - such as unequal college attendance or employment status. We conducted a meta-regression analysis to estimate variation in the depression gap over time by age, accounting for potential sources of variation between studies. Electronic databases and bibliographies were searched for English-language studies from January 1980 through October 2019; 144 independent estimates from US-representative samples met selection criteria (n = 813,189). The depression gap was summarized as prevalence ratios among studies using diagnostic instruments and as standardized mean differences among symptom-based studies. Primary study measures were baseline study year (range, 1982-2017) and age (age groups ranging, in years, from 10-59 and 60 or older). Compared with respondents aged ≥60 years, depression prevalence was greater among respondents aged 10-19 (prevalence ratio = 1.26, 95% confidence interval: 1.02, 1.56). Over time, the depression gap did not change among adults, but it increased among adolescents (age-by-time interaction prevalence ratio = 1.05, 95% confidence interval: 1.01, 1.08). Results were similar for symptom-based studies. The present study finds no evidence of a change in the depression gender gap for US adults; however, the gap increased among adolescents. Greater attention to factors driving this widening disparity in adolescent depression is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1190-1206
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • United States
  • depression
  • depressive symptoms
  • gender
  • health disparities
  • time trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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