Likelihood of Depression in Young Girls Compared to Young Boys

Children and teenagers have never had it easy. Response to stress stimuli has always been a marker of life, and stress is something that all kids and teens experience - whether they’re aware of it or not. Stress, for young people, can arise from anything: academics, their social life, and even their home life, and, unfortunately, any of these stressors can sometimes give way to depression. Recently, an article reported that adolescent girls are twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience depression

The article discusses the following information:

  • Trajectories of adolescent depression in girls and boys usually diverge around age 11, although they both remain on an increase.
  • Reasons for the increase on both ends may be attributed to the pressures adolescents face in their day-to-day lives.
  • The final divergence in their trajectories may have something to do with the age at which puberty occurs for each sex.


The Psychology Today article, written by Arash Emamzadeh, points out that prior to puberty, boys are girls are equally as likely to experience depression or depressive symptoms. But then there’s a switch. “During adolescence,” Emamzadeh says, “the rates diverge...Young women are almost twice as likely to be depressed as young men.” This divergence happens right around age 11. Initially, boys are just a hair more likely to experience depression. The two trajectories cross paths between 10 and 11, but in that time, depression in girls begins to skyrocket while depression in boys continues on a steady increase.

A white mask with teardrops painted on it lying on the ground and facing the sky.
With an increased pressure to appear "perfect" it can be difficult to spot depression in adolescents.

Increasing Rates of Depression

Scientists don’t have a definite answer as to why both boys and girls experience an increase in depression after the age of 11. They suspect, however, that it may have something to do with the pressures they experience in their everyday life. Anything from moving to a new school to trying to make new friends may have an effect on an adolescent’s mood. The fact that both show an increase, however, is reason enough for further inquiry. The upswing in both of their trajectories suggests a certain pattern to the appearance of depressive symptoms. If there’s a pattern, then there must be a reason for the increases.

An adolescent girl frowning at her computer and looking stressed.
As adolescents become busier and busier with an increased workload at school, they are subject to high levels of stress.

A Reason for the Divergence

Further research is needed to corroborate it, but many researchers hypothesize that the reason for the sudden shift in trajectories occurs around age 11 is because of the onset of puberty in many young girls. Since puberty occurs much earlier in life for girls than it does for boys, it makes sense that the chart of their trajectories would show a steep increase for girls around age 11, while the increase for boys is steady until it spikes around age 16. This coincides with the ages around which each sex typically begins puberty, which marks an imbalance between emotion regulation and stress management.

Depression happens, but understanding when and why it appears in adolescents is the first step to getting them help when they need it. 

Looking for more information? Check these:

The emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence.

AACAP Depression Resource Center.

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