Social Change and the Evolution of Gender Differences in Depression: An Age-Cohort Consideration

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Andreea MOGOSANU, University of Toronto, Canada
Laura UPENIEKS, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
The tendency for females to display more depressed affect in the United States is a highly complex social problem that has personal and society-wide impacts. This study investigates whether social change in education, employment and household work during the 20th century has been associated with improvements in the mental health status of younger cohorts of Americans (and in particular American women). Using Mirowsky’s (2013) age-vector modelling strategy, we distinguish between changes in the depression implications of employment and household work due to cohort versus age effects. Controlling for race, education, and marital status, we find gender differences in depression decrease significantly for incoming cohorts. Employment is also highly and increasingly beneficial for younger cohorts of women, while lower levels of employment are especially detrimental for incoming cohorts of men. In accounting for housework involvement, higher levels are associated with a stronger drop in depression for men, but not for women. Accounting for the interaction between work at home and in the workplace, we find that gender differences in depression are smallest among those who do not work at home— this holds across levels of employment and cohorts. In addition, women’s depression curve remains similar within employment categories across levels of involvement in housework, while depression decreases with higher levels of housework for younger cohorts of men who had a strong workplace involvement for the duration of the study.