Background: Studies of gender differences in the clinical presentation of depression have provided divergent results. This study aimed at analyzing gender differences in severity, symptomatology and distribution of melancholia in major depression. Sampling and Methods: The study comprised 930 in- and out-patients (652 women, 278 men) from 6 randomized controlled trials. All patients fulfilled DSM-III or DSM-III-R criteria for major depression. The 17-item Hamilton Depression Scale (HDS) was applied to all patients. A multi-axial evaluation was completed using the Newcastle 1 Depression Rating Scale from 1965 for melancholia (N1) in a subsample of patients (n = 439). A factor analysis on the HDS was performed. Non-parametric statistical tests were used and only gender differences greater than 20% were considered clinically relevant. Results: The median on the HDS total score was 22 and the median number of symptoms was 13 for both men and women. Presentation of specific symptoms was similar for men and women. The factor analysis revealed no gender differences, and neither did analyses on symptoms of Axes II and IV. According to the N1, 80% of the men and 66% of the women suffered from melancholic depression (p = 0.004). Conclusions: In a large and broad sample of in- and out-patients with major depression, the severity and symptomatology of depression were similar for men and women. Melancholic depression was significantly more frequent among male than female patients. Inclusion and exclusion criteria in the randomized controlled trials provided a selected group of patients, which limited the generalisability of the results to an exclusive subgroup of patients treated for depression in routine clinical practice.

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