BACKGROUND: Given that several studies have found the gender difference in depression to be rooted in psychosocial forces and others have shown the difference to be due to a gender difference in somatic depression, we compared the gender difference in somatic depression among respondents who reported no relative depressed with that of all other depressed respondents.
METHODS: Respondents in a representative sample from the Zurich study who met criteria for somatic depression and reported no relatives (first-degree, or parents, or mothers, or fathers in separate analyses) with depression were compared to other depressed respondents as to gender.
RESULTS: The gender difference in the prevalence of depression among respondents with somatic depression who reported no relatives with depression (whether the relatives were all first-degree, or any parent, or mothers only or fathers only) was significantly greater than the gender difference in depression among other respondents LIMITATIONS: The measure of depression among relatives was based upon reports of the respondents.
CONCLUSION: All or almost all of the gender difference in depression in this representative sample.is due to a gender difference in somatic depression among respondents who reported no depressed relative. Somatic depression may be a disorder distinct from depression without significant additional somatic symptomatology. If so, it is likely that it should be treated differently.