Psychological Medicine

Sex differences in the association between childhood experiences and adult depression

a1 From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oulu; Social Insurance Institution and Mental Health Center of Turku, Turku; and National Research and Developmental Centre for Welfare and Health, Helsinki, Finland


Background. In the present paper, sex differences in the association between adult depression and childhood experiences were examined.

Methods. The study series of the Finnish UKKI Study consisted of a population sample of 501 men and 499 women. Information concerning childhood experiences was gathered retrospectively in a baseline survey carried out in 1969–72. After the initial phase, the mental health of the subjects was evaluated by interviews, questionnaires and register data at the 5-year follow-up (1974–6) and at the 16-year follow-up (1985–7).

Results. Twelve per cent of men and 21% of women had suffered from depression during the 16-year follow-up period. A disturbed mother–child relationship and neurotic symptoms in childhood were associated with depression in women but not in men in the logistic model that included gender interaction. In separate analyses by gender several childhood factors showed statistically significant associations with depression in women but only a few in men.

Conclusions. The finding suggests that childhood experiences are more highly predisposing factors to depression in women than in men.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Juha Veijola, University of Oulu, Department of Psychiatry, SF-90210 Oulu, Finland.