Objective: We sought to examine whether higher rates of depression in women than in men can be explained partially by the artifact hypothesis, which suggests that when both sexes have the same depressive symptoms, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression. We hypothesized that (1) this gender bias in identifying depression exists within families and (2) family members will be more likely to attribute depressive symptoms to internal causes for women and external causes for men.
Methods: Our sample consisted of 205 adults, generated from the family members of 46 probands who participated in the Yale Family Study. To determine whether bias exists in the family, we compared self-reports of depressive symptoms with family reports of depressive symptoms for the same individual.
Results: As predicted, we found that compared with men, women were more likely to be reported as depressed by a family member when they report themselves as not depressed. We also found that family members were more likely to attribute depressive symptoms of females to internal causes. We did not, however, find any differences by gender in attribution of depression to external causes.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that gender bias within the family may contribute to the higher recorded rates of depression in women.