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Depression Research and Treatment
Volume 2012, Article ID 865679, 9 pages
Research Article

Gender Differences in Depression: Assessing Mediational Effects of Overt Behaviors and Environmental Reward through Daily Diary Monitoring

Department of Psychology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 307 Austin Peay Building, Knoxville, TN 37996-0900, USA

Received 14 November 2011; Accepted 4 December 2011

Academic Editor: H. Grunze

Copyright © 2012 Marlena M. Ryba and Derek R. Hopko. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Gender differences in the prevalence of depression are well documented. To further explore the relation between gender and depression, this study used daily diaries to examine gender differences within thirteen behavioral domains and whether differential frequency of overt behaviors and environmental reward mediated the relationship between gender and depression severity. The sample included 82 undergraduate students [66% females; 84% Caucasian; Mean age = 20.2 years]. Overall, females engaged in a significantly greater breadth of behavioral domains and reported a higher level of environmental reward. Females spent more time in the domains of health/hygiene, spiritual activities, and eating with others. Males spent more time in the domains of physical activity, sexual activity, and hobbies and recreational experiences. Females found social activities, passive/sedentary behaviors, eating with others, and engagement in “other” activities more rewarding. Gender had a significant direct effect on depression severity, with females reporting increased depression. This effect was attenuated by the mediator (total environmental reward) such that to the extent females exhibited increased environmental reward, the gender effect on depression was attenuated. These data support behavioral models of depression, indicate increased reinforcement sensitivity among females, and have clinical relevance in the context of assessment and behavioral activation interventions for depression.