More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Feeling Connected Helps Women Avoid Depression, But Social Support Does Not Help Men
Thursday, February 03, 2005
By Miranda Hitti, WebMD Medical News

Feb. 3, 2005 -- To avoid depression, one of the best things a woman can do may be to build a strong supportive network.

Feeling loved, cared for, and being well integrated in positive social groups protects women against future depression, says Kenneth Kendler, MD, in a news release.

But that's not true for men, says Kendler, a psychiatry and human genetics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Men may be more 'immune' or less sensitive to aspects of their social environment with respect to their risk for depression."

Kendler and colleagues recently studied depression and social support among men and women. Their findings appear in February's American Journal of Psychiatry.

Every year, depression strikes an estimated 18 million people in the U.S. About twice as many women as men have depression, says the National Institute for Mental Health. No one knows why that is. Genetics, hormones, and life circumstances may all be involved. Still, depression is treatable if people seek help.

Kendler's study focused on social support. Being connected to others has repeatedly been shown to help mind and body. Compared with men, women tend to have larger social networks and rely on their connections for emotional support, say the researchers.

About 1,000 sets of opposite-sex twins participated in the study. Each set of twins shared half of the same genes -- the same as for any brother and sister -- and were raised in the same home. That way, any effect from genetics and family environment was similar.

The twins were interviewed twice, at least a year apart, starting at ages 21 to 58. Questions included support from family and friends as well as social integration. For instance, the researchers asked how frequently the twins attended clubs, organizations, church, or other religious services.

They also talked about having people to confide in. During both interviews, the twins were also screened for depression.

Where Women Get Support
For women, having high levels of social support strongly reduced the risk of depression. That included support from six out of seven sources: the women's twin, other relatives, friends, parents, spouse, and social integration. Children were the only source of support that didn't cut women's depression risk.

In contrast, depression was more likely for women who didn't sense social support. A lack of social support predicted future depression among the women, say the researchers.

Men Network Differently
For men, the results were totally different. Social support barely affected their depression risk, and none of the seven factors predicted depression.

That might be because men often use their social networks differently. Emotional support might not be the goal. Instead of pouring their hearts out to a friend, men may take another approach.

"Men may turn to their network, but interactions are likely to be focused on shared activities or 'distractions,'" write the researchers.

SOURCES: Kendler, K. American Journal of Psychiatry, February 2005; vol 162: pp 250-256. National Institute of Mental Health, "Depression." News release, Virginia Commonwealth University.





Social support is the most important factor in stress reduction/depression for me. Great article.

Welcome ajlpn,

I think the starting place for a woman that does not have this social support in place to help with her depression, would be attaining the help of a therapist. Once that was in place and the immediate concerns with her depression are being addressed, (CBT, Medication etc.) then perhaps a goal in therapy would be to build the support networks.



Then perhaps learning how to love herself would be a goal in therapy.

Just so you know, ajlpn, when you type in capitals in a forum such as this, it means that you are yelling rather than just talking.


Thank you for the article. This women was abused as a child and her former marriage and she has just started to really think about how her life has been and how she doesn't want to keep repeating the same mistakes of always allowing herself to be the victim. She is trying to become more assertive to open her mouth and say no, and to know that by doing that she has control and that its not other people putting pressure on her to be door mat that every one continues to use.


Sounds like she is on her way down the road to recovery and has at least one person who is her friend. Hope she continues to travel it.


I think an important thing to remember is that years of abuse, and the resultant self-deprecation, cannot be "cured" in weeks of therapy. It takes time, and committment, and patience to find our way through the morass of skewed thinking and self-destructive behaviors that result from years of abuse. An important part of finding happiness is being willing to devote the time to learning how to do so.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Angela, there will be some people who may "tire" of listening to your problems, even some people you once considered friends. But there will also be some peoeple you already know and some you don't yet know who will step up to listen in their place.

You're not really alone in this. I know it feels like that sometimes but often it's because you're not looking in the right direction to see the people who are willing to listen and to help.

Maybe this forum will be a starting place for you.


I feel like i live outside of everyone world that there is noone out there like me because im a sensitive person whom take everything serious. Can anyone relate or help?
I think sometimes people might have their own problems or battles going on so they withdraw support. And some people can't handle other people's problems. And some people just want to be there when things are good.

But Dr. Baxter is right, there are always people who will be there, like here on this forum.

As far as feeling like you live on the outside, YES, I feel like that.

Have you seen this post?

Are you highly sensitive?
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