Depression is a common response to the loss of a loved one and is associated with impaired psychological, physical, and social functioning and increased risk for mortality. About 15% to 30% of individuals experience clinically significant depression during the first year after a loved one’s death.[60,61] Results from a prospective, nationally representative sample of women in the United States ages 54 or older show that the effects of bereavement on depression are substantial during the first 2 years following the loss, then decrease in the third year of widowhood.
This pattern was true for both depressed mood and MD. The longer life expectancy of women, combined with their younger age at marriage, contributes to a higher prevalence widowhood among women. Bereavement makes grief and loneliness more common among older women than among men of the same age. The speed of emotional recovery following death seems to be substantially greater among men than women.
Thus, women may be more vulnerable than men to long-lasting depression following bereavement. In general, men and women who have had no forewarning of a loved one’s death (for example, when a spouse dies suddenly of a stroke) appear to be especially vulnerable to developing bereavement depression. Still, it is difficult to draw any definite conclusion about the effects of gender on bereavement depression.
Most studies have had very small sample sizes and have been narrowly focused on a specific population, with no control groups. Some investigators have claimed that bereaved women are more likely to become depressed, others have asserted that men are more vulnerable, and still others have seen no gender differences in depression following bereavement. Clinical Management of Major Depression The standard assessment of women with MD should include a careful evaluation of symptoms at presentation, including their number, type (such as typical versus atypical), and severity (such as suicidal ideation or psychosis).