Do sex differences in rumination explain sex differences in depression?

Tracey J. Shors, Emma M. Millon, Han Yan M. Chang, Ryan L. Olson, Brandon L. Alderman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


It is generally accepted that women tend to ruminate more than men do and these thought patterns are often associated with depressive symptoms (Nolen-Hoeksema et al.,). Based on these findings, we considered whether the relationship between rumination and depression is stronger in women than in men and if so, whether this might explain the higher prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) in women and finally, whether the association can be disrupted through a mind/body intervention. Adult men and women, most of whom were clinically depressed, participated in an intervention known as MAP Training, which combines “mental” training with silent meditation and “physical” training with aerobic exercise (Shors et al.,). After eight weeks of training, both men and women reported significantly fewer symptoms of depression and fewer ruminative thoughts (Alderman et al.,). Statistical correlations between depressive symptoms and ruminative thoughts were strong and significant (rho > 0.50; p < 0.05) for both men and women before and after MAP Training. However, only in women did depressive symptoms relate to “reflective” ruminations, which involve analyses of past events, feelings, and behaviors. This is also the only relationship that dissipated after the intervention. In general, these analyses suggest that the strength of the relationship between depressive symptoms and rumination does not necessarily explain sex differences in depression; but because the relationship is strong, targeting rumination through intervention can reduce the incidence of MDD, which is more prevalent among women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-718
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • depression
  • exercise
  • fear
  • hippocampus
  • learning
  • meditation
  • memory
  • neurogenesis
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • rumination
  • stress


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