Two studies of the interactions between genes, gender, stress and depression have shown that the relationships between these different factors are more complex than many newspaper reports would suggest. Researchers looked at two groups of people one who had had deprived childhoods (suffered stress early in life) and the other who were caregivers (suffered stress later in life). They examined levels of stress and depression and related them to a variation in a gene that regulates levels of serotonin, a brain chemical known to be linked to depression. The researchers found that women with the 'short' version of the gene were more likely to suffer from depression when they were stressed whereas for men it was the 'long' version of the gene which placed them more at risk. The effect of the stress was consistent regardless of whether it occured early or late in life. The researchers suggested that those people with the gene variation ('short' in women 'long' in men) that increased the risk of stress-related depression and who are in stressful situations could benefit from preventive measures such as positive social support or training in stress-coping skills to prevent them from becoming depressed.
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