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Men More Prone to Substance Abuse – Women More Prone to Depression or Anxiety

Researchers at The University of Minnesota say that men and women are affected differently by mental illness, with women more likely to succumb to anxiety or depression and men more likely to develop substance abuse or antisocial disorders

To find out how sex differences affected the likelihood of developing differing mental illnesses, researchers at the University of Minnesota looked at data from the 2001/2002 National Institutes of Health survey done on a representative sample of more than 43 000 Americans.

They found that women were more likely than men to suffer from internalizing disorders, such as mood or anxiety disorders and men were more likely to suffer from externalizing disorders, such as substance abuse or personality disorders. For example:

  • Women experienced a lifetime prevalence rate for depression of 22.9%. Only 13.1% of men had ever experienced depression
  • Women were 1.47 times more likely to have ever had specific phobia, 1.39 times more likely to have ever had panic disorder and 1.34 times more likely to have ever had General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Men were more than twice as likely to have ever experienced alcohol dependence (17.4% compared to only 8% of women) almost twice as likely to have ever experienced marijuana dependence ( 1.7% compared to 0.9%) and more than twice as likely to have experienced antisocial personality disorder (5.5% compared to 1.9%).

Previous research has found that women are more prone to mood disorders like depression as they tend to ruminate more on their problems.

Commenting on the significance of the study results, lead researcher Nicholas R. Eaton says that the findings of the study indicate that treatment and prevention interventions should be developed with an awareness of gender differences, saying, "In women, treatment might focus on coping and cognitive skills to help prevent rumination from developing into clinically significant depression or anxiety. In men, treatment for impulsive behaviors might focus on rewarding planned actions and shaping aggressive tendencies into non-destructive behavior."

The full study results can be read in the August 15th online edition of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology

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