Gender & Depression Among First Year Nursing Students

Arthur J. Engler, University of Connecticut School of Nursing
Lynn Allchin, University of Connecticut School of Nursing
Laura Cox Dzurec, University of Connecticut School of Nursing
John T. Szarlan, University of Connecticut

Document Type Article


Purpose: Depression rates among students have increased for a variety of reasons, including stress, prior depression and sleep problems. The purpose of this study was to profile gender differences in depression among first-year nursing students to identify targeted interventions.

Theoretical Framework: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) emphasizes discussing thoughts and behaviors as a means to resolve depression. CBT is short-term and ideal for college students.

Methods: Design: This is a longitudinal, cross-sectional design. After completing informed consents, students completed the paper-and-pencil form of the Center for Epidemiologic Study Depression Scale (CES-D). Sample: In the sample (N = 135), 91% were women and 89% were white. There were no significant demographic differences between genders. Setting: The setting was a large public university in Connecticut. Measure: The CES-D is a 20-item summated rating depression scale that asks participants to evaluate recent feelings and behaviors. Analysis: We used inferential statistics for gender differences and descriptive statistics for sample characterization.

Results: Student’s t-tests revealed no significant differences on CES-D total scores. At Time 1, though, women scored significantly higher on “fearful”, while men scored significantly higher on “life a failure” and “could not get ‘going.’” At Time 1a, women scored significantly higher on “not as good as others,” “fearful,” “restless sleep,” “talking less,” and “people were unfriendly”, while men scored significantly higher on “lonely” and “sad.” At Time 2 there were no differences.

Conclusions and Implications: Students demonstrated significant gender differences in depression. Women were fearful, while men felt that their life was a failure and they could not get going. Later, women felt they were not as good as others, were fearful, slept restlessly, talked less, and felt that people were unfriendly, while men felt lonely and sad. An awareness of students’ depression experiences could help provide professionals with targeted interventions for troubled students.