Depressive symptoms in intellectual disability: does gender play a role?

Background: Gender issues remain largely unaddressed in the dual diagnosis arena, even in the area of depression where there is a 2:1 female to male ratio in the general population. This paper argues that women with intellectual disability (ID) report higher levels of depressive symptoms than men with ID and that risk factors for depression identified for women in the general population are relevant to this group.

Methods: Findings are based on structured interviews with 99 men and women with ID, with corroborative information provided from caregivers and casebook reviews.

Results: Overall, women reported higher levels of depression than men. Individuals with higher depression scores were more lonely and had higher stress levels than individuals with lower scores. Women with higher depression scores were more likely to report coming from abusive situations, to have poor social support from family and to be unemployed when compared to women with lower scores, but similar differences were not found when comparing men with higher and lower depression scores.

Conclusion: Men and women who report experiencing these psychosocial correlates of depression should be a target group for future prevention efforts, taking gender specific concerns into consideration.