Women & Mood Disorders

Co-Chairs

Heather A. Flynn, PhD - University of Michigan & Florida State University
Sandra J. Weiss, PhD, DNSc, FAAN - University of California San Francisco  

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from mood disorders, with nearly one-quarter of all women experiencing depression at some point in their lives. The Women and Mood Disorders Task Group was formed to employ evidence-based research methods to better understand and address the unique biological and psychological issues impacting women at key life stages including pregnancy, postpartum and menopause, and to determine best practices for treatment.

Established in 2009, the Task Group is a “network within a network,” comprised of 40 members from 21 academic institutions.  The Task Group seeks to capitalize on the strengths of a collaborative network by bringing together researchers, clinicians and staff from NNDC Centers of Excellence to impact the prevalence and burden of depression in women across the lifespan, and to better understand  the different ways men and women experience mood disorders. 

The main priority of the Women and Mood Disorders Task Group is to promote collaborative research, education and clinical care focused on women with mood disorders.  The Task Group takes a broad, multi-faceted approach, and includes faculty who specialize in women-focused research.

The Women and Mood Disorders Pooled Dataset Project is a cornerstone of the Task Group’s efforts to improve clinical care through the power of research.  Launched in 2009, the Pooled Dataset Project is a subgroup within the Task Group, encompassing eight academic institutions and 16 individual databases, totaling over 30,000 research participants.  Its goal is to determine disparities in prevalence, course, and treatment use.  The project was formed as an “early win” priority, generating interest and enthusiasm from members.  An NIH grant proposal, still pending, was submitted in August of 2010, and has received a favorable score.


Research & Background

Pregnancy is a life event that comes with large physical and emotional changes, whether the pregnancy is carried to term or not. Many factors are known to influence the incidence of perinatal mood disorders. Women in Canada were found to be at a greater risk for postpartum depression if they lived in urban areas (1). A British study found that choosing to terminate a pregnancy doesn't increase a woman's chances of encountering a mental health problem (2).

Menopause also comes with large changes that can affect a woman's mood. It has been found that peri- and post- menopausal women have higher rates of serious depressive symptoms than premenopausal women (3). Many studies have tried to understand the physical and/or social causes of this, and some progress has been made. Low levels of estradiol and follicle stimulating hormone during menopause have been linked to the incidence of depression and anxiety (4).

1. Vigod, S. N., Tarasoff, L. A., Bryja, B., Dennis, C. L., Yudin, M. H., & Ross, L. E. (2013). Relation between place of residence and postpartum depression. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2013/08/06/cmaj.122028.short

2. National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (2011). Induced Abortion and Mental Health: A systematic review of the evidence - full report and consultation table with responses. Retrieved from http://www.nccmh.org.uk/publications_SR_abortion_in_MH.html

3. Weber, M. T., Maki, P. M., & McDermott, M. P. (2013). Cognition and mood in perimenopause: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23770320

4. Alpay, N., Kıvanç, Z. E., & Ulaşoğlu, C. (2013). The relationship between hormonal profile and depressive symptoms in menopausal women. Düşünen Adam: The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, 26(2). Retrieved from: http://www.scopemed.org/?mno=40581