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

5 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
Externally publishedYes


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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