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Sophie Sipprell
Instructor: Malcolm Campbell
English 1103
November 9, 2016
Gender Differences in Depression: Whats the Cause?
My sister was fifteen when she was diagnosed with depression, shortly after my parents
divorce. As a child, I looked up to her a lot since she is my older and only sibling. When she was
diagnosed with depression, it was hard to watch. It changes the person tremendously. With
depression, she couldnt be the same sister I knew. She couldnt help it. When she was first
diagnosed, I did not know what depression really was, which prompted me to look it up. TO my
understanding, depression is a psychological disorder that is a chemical imbalance in the brain
and certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, do not working correctly/
their amounts are reduced. Its impact on my family was tremendous and unforgettable. Seeing
how depression affected my sister made me curious about it. We are only two years apart in age
and were both impacted similarly by our parents divorce. How did she become diagnosed with
depression while I did not? Since we are the closest to each other genetically, there has to be
other factors besides DNA that influence depression. The questions of how and why appear a
lot when thinking about depression. How does it occur? Why does it happen? As explained by
Stephanie Faris, the author of Is Depression Genetic?, genetics are a factor in about 40% of
overall cases of depression. External or environmental factors have to make up the other 60%
She described these other influential factors of environment being as family and school, and
gender. My family does not have a history of depression so the likelihood of her getting

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depression through genetics is low. This lead to the question of what external factors impacted
my sister that did not so much impact me?
One of the main differences in her environment was that my sister was about to enter
high school. High school is a big transitioning time where you figure out who you are along with
discovering gender roles and the social hierarchy that have been created by society. This
transition is mainly due to two factors, hormones and social media. My sister was starting to
mature and hit puberty at the time of the divorce. The negative effects and emotions from the
divorce could alter the chemicals in her brain, causing there to be an imbalance. Stressful life
events are a cause for depression (Harvard Health Publications). Also, high school is where you
begin to find out more about yourself. You find a group of friends and, because of societies
influence, aim to be a part of the popular group. The social pressure that arises from social
media and other students can be a lot on someone, especially if you do not fit into their idea of
normal. My sister was never an outcast but kids can be harsh to each other about things. With
her also going through the emotions of our parents splitting, the comments friends make could
hit a lot harder than they normally would have.
Depression is partially genetic and due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, so I wanted
to look at what things could cause the imbalance that might only affect girls. Birth control was
one of those factors. Contraceptives, like birth control, are inserting hormones into your body,
which could affect the ones that are already in there. Teenagers can be especially sensitive to this
because of their sensitivity to hormonal changes during puberty. The use of contraceptives could
be a reason why the rate is higher in girls, since they have no yet created an equivalent for men.

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From most of the articles I read, social media is mentioned as a source of influence on
depression. The ideas of normal and cool that high schoolers use to classify people has to
come from somewhere, and that place is social media. At the time of my parents divorce,
Facebook and Tumblr were the two big social media sites. Since I was not old enough yet, my
parents made me wait until I was 13; therefore, I did not experience the influence of social media
in the same way my sister did. Social media is a huge platform that defines the status quo and
teenagers are exposed to an increased expectation to conform to the standards that society sets,
specifically girls (Beattle). As a girl, there are so many outlets and advertisements that create an
impossible image of beauty. Young girls growing up look at these images of beauty and
begin to feel that there is something wrong with them because they do not look that way. This
causes girls at young age to be self-conscious about how they look. The faade that social media
accounts portray also affect the way teens view themselves. Social media is a platform for one to
present their best self. If someone sees all the great things other people are doing, they could
become depressed and envious as they start to value their worth based off likes and comments on
their posts. This aspect of social media I feel affects girls more than guys, since girls are taught
to care more about their image. Ive even had a guy friend tell me that if a girl doesnt get more
than 200 likes on Instagram, he wouldnt be interested in her. This thought processes is not a way
to describe everyone, but it does show how there is still that mentality in society on the way a
woman should be and act. A survey done by Pew Research Center backs up my belief, stating
that girls are more likely to use social media sites and platforms. Not only does social media
impact self-image, it also effects other influences on depression, such as sleep and cyberbullying.
I know my sister would stay up late on social media and be on there for hours. The teenage years
are an important time for development. Lack of sleep can be detrimental since it is an important

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factor for brain development. Another negative of social media that could impact depression is
cyberbullying. People get a sense of being invincible from behind a screen and say whatever they
want without thinking of the consequences. The American College of Pediatricians has found
that over half of adolescents state that they have been bullied online and over 25% of them
state that they have been bullied repeatedly through the internet or on cell phones. Having
someone constantly putting you down and making you feel terrible about yourself on the internet
can lead to psychological issues, including depression, anorexia and self-harm. These factors
would have affected my sister a lot more than me since I was younger than she was. I was not yet
going through puberty. I was also still in middle school, where everyone was super awkward and
social status was not yet a thing.
Since depression is not a 100% genetic, it is likely that the difference in the rate of
depression in teens could be due to how females and males interact differently with their
surroundings. While researching the impact of social media on depression, I began to see and
think about how different genders use social media differently. As mentioned before the research
done by the Pew Research Center said that girls are more likely to use social media. They also
state that boys are more likely to play video games. My step brothers definitely support this
study. They are extremely into video games and did not really get into social media until last
year. My step brothers parents are also divorced but they went through it at a younger age than
my sister and I. Neither of them are diagnosed with depression; however, they had a lot of
violence and behavioral issues at the time, most likely because of the frustration and hurt from
the situation. My sister and I were never really involved with video games and when my sister
was diagnosed, she was using multiple social media sites. Society is now changing to where
gender roles are becoming less defined. Social media and video games are becoming less

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specific to one gender. If social media is a cause of depression, the difference in the depression
rate may decrease if females and males start using it the same amount. This is very likely since
kids are now immersed in a culture that is heavily influenced by social media.
The differences sparked another question: Is the rate of depression different in
teenagers based off their gender? The SAMHSA Nation Survey on Drug Use and Health did a
study that showed the risk for teenage girls from the ages 12-17 were three times higher than that
of teenage boys. Another study observed that young women between the ages of 15 and 18 were
twice as likely to have depression (Beattle). My sister was 15 when she was diagnosed. It is
amazing how little things such as social media use and age can be so significant when it comes to
depression. Would it have been different if my sister was a boy? There is no way to know for
sure but the risk is greater as a female. One study suggested in the article by Steingard the
possibility that the difference may be due to past gender roles. Women were mothers and wired
to be more nurturing, whereas, the men were taught to be hunters and provide for their families.
Steingard shuts this possibility down by saying that gender roles are changing more so that both
males and females are providers and caretakers, but the rate of depression has not increased.
Although the rate of depression in teens differs, the chronicity, or how severe the case is, is about
the same for teenage boys and girls (Salk). Depression may affect genders at different rates
depending on the age, but it has the same impact on its victims.

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Works Cited
Faris, Stephanie. "Is Depression Genetic?" Msn. N.p., 23 May 2014. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.
Haelle, Tara. "Does Some Birth Control Raise Depression Risk? That's Complicated." NPR.
NPR, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
MaMt. "Substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey on Drug
Use and Health: Overview of Findings." The NSDUH Report (2014): n. pag. Web. 8 Nov.
Salk, Rachel H., et al. "The Contemporary Face of Gender Differences And Similarities In
Depression Throughout Adolescence: Development And Chronicity." Journal Of
Affective Disorders 205.(2016): 28-35. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
Steingard, Ron J., MD. "Mood Disorders and Teenage Girls Child Mind Institute." Child Mind
Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.