Higher Rate of Depression Found Among Jewish Men : Psychology: In yearlong study comparing them with non-Jewish men, researchers speculate that their low incidence of alcoholism may explain the difference.
Jewish men show sharply higher rates of depression than non-Jewish men do, and it may be because they are less likely to drown their sorrows in alcohol, researchers said Monday at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Assn. in Miami.
An analysis of surveys in Los Angeles and New Haven, Conn., found that within a one-year period, 13% of Jewish men suffered from major depression, compared with 5.4% of non-Jewish men. Jewish women did not show unusually high rates.
Researchers can only speculate about what causes the high rate in Jewish men, but it may have to do with their low rate of alcoholism, said study authors Dr. Robert Kohn and Dr. Itzak Levav of Brown University in Providence, R.I.
Jewish men had a 2.8% rate of alcoholism compared to about 14% for non-Jewish men, Kohn said. Because alcohol use is highly limited in Jewish tradition, there is less opportunity for alcoholism, Levav said.
In cultures that do not use drinking as an outlet for release of tension, sadness and distress, those things may show up as depression, Levav said.
Another possibility is that alcoholism simply covers up the identifiable symptoms of depression in basically depressed people, he said.
Kohn noted that when researchers added up the rates of alcoholism and major depression, Jewish men showed about the same combined rate as non-Jewish men.
The work drew on results from a landmark study of America’s mental health that was done in the 1980s. The new work analyzed data from 4,583 white adults in Los Angeles and New Haven, including 431 Jewish participants.
Overall results for Jewish participants found that men and women showed about the same rates of major depression, in contrast to the usual pattern of women having twice the male rate. Prior research into the Amish, who are nondrinkers, also show an unusual equality of men’s and women’s depression rates at relatively high levels, Kohn said.
Dr. Paul Yeung, a psychiatrist at the Yale University School of Medicine who has used the New Haven data to study Jewish mental health, said the new work provides good evidence that Jewish men have high depression rates.
He said it is plausible that the high depression rate and the low alcoholism rate are connected, but he cautioned that the study cannot show whether one factor is causing the other.